“I’ve witnessed discrimination on the streets, being teased on the streets and verbally abused on the streets. I have also made numerous friends and have met a lot of people. There may be dangers out there but I am a survivor and this is where I will be for now.” - Sainimili Naivalu
Sainimili Naivalu was a feminist and disability rights activist from the village of Dakuibeqa on Beqa Island, Fiji.
She demanded policy makers and stakeholders provide disability friendly policies and services such as the construction of ramps in towns and cities to increase accessibility. Physical barriers were not the only ones she strived to change. From her own experience, she knew that more difficult changes need to take place in social and economic spheres. Many of the challenges disabled people face are rooted in attitudes that carry discrimination and stigma.
A survivor and a fighter, Sainimili contributed to co-creating feminist realities that foster inclusion and shift attitudes towards disabled people. As a member of the Spinal Injury Association of Fiji (SIA) and through Pacific Disability Forum’s Pacific Enable project she attended the International Labour Organisation “Start Your Business” training in Suva, enabling her to transform her ideas into her own business. She was an entrepreneur at the Suva Market Stall 7, offering manicure services, as well as running SIA’s women’s market stall selling handicrafts, sulus and artifacts. Sainimili’s plan was to expand her business and become a major employer of disabled people.
In addition to her activism, she was also a table tennis medalist and youth champion.
A vivacious personality, Sainimili was one of a kind. You would always know that Sainimili is in a room because her laughter and her stories would be the first thing that you would notice. - Michelle Reddy