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Leadership Series: Fozia & Tagiilima Uncover Leadership Potential

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Through the Leadership SeriesWomen’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) participants and alumni share how the program moulds and showcases their leadership potential, uncovering their ability to drive change in their own countries and contexts.

In part one of the series, we heard from Fiji’s Aloesi Dakuidreketi-Hickes and Diana Wally Guria on how they have become better prepared to lead in male dominated finance, science, banking, and political spheres.

In part two of the WLI Leadership Series, Fijian participant Fozia Muktar and Samoan alumna Tagiilima Neemia describe the reflective process the program took them through, leading them to evaluate their own skills, experiences, and positions as leaders in communication and cyber security.

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Tagiilima Realises Her Potential to ‘Make a Difference as a Leader’  

For Samoa’s first woman cyber security expert, Tagiilima Neemia, participating in the Women’s Leadership Initiative began with a focus on evaluating and improving her individual leadership skills, but ended with a realisation that she can “make a difference”. 

“When I left to do my Master’s [degree in Australia], I knew I was going to be the first woman in Samoa to have a Master’s in Cyber Security, but I didn’t think much of this,” Tagiilima says, “Doing the WLI program, I then realised that I can make use of my studies, the networks I developed, and my mentor.” 

Through the WLI, Tagiilima was mentored by Megan Haas, an advocate for women in security and an advisor on cyber security and privacy. She is currently the Chair of Development Victoria and a Non-executive Director of cyber-security provider, Tesserent.  

Megan supported Tagiilima to develop and lead a community project through which she exposed 6 to 12-year-old Samoan girls to coding in an effort to “get them more interested in IT” and increase the rate of girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.  

To deliver the project, Tagiilima worked in partnership with Girl Geek Academy in Australia - an introduction that came through another WLI participant, and Megan supported Tagiilima, providing relationship management advice and relevant IT industry connections. 

“Megan also helped me build some networks with IT people in Australia,” says Tagiilima, “She helped me develop my project … and partners I could join with.” 

Tagiilima also credits her growth as an emerging leader to the experience she gained participating in WLI Leadership for COVID-19 Response and Recovery – a program launched to support WLI alumni and participants to exercise developmental leadership in Pacific Island communities affected by the pandemic. 

Tagiilima led and collaborated with three WLI alumni and Women in Business Development Inc. Samoa to empower mothers to keep their families safe from harm during the pandemic. 

The project involved Tagiilima delivering a workshop on cyber safety and security to help families prevent problems arising due to the increase in time children are spending at home and online during periods of isolation and lockdown. 

“The WLI opened up a lot of opportunities for me, … I was able to evaluate myself and see myself as a person that could make a change,” says Tagiilima, “I realised that I could now make a difference as a leader.” 

Tagiilima believes that had she not taken part in the WLI, she would have returned home after completing her Master’s and “just gone on with my life”.  

“It was an eye-opener for me [and] I am really grateful to the program; it changed me,” she says. 

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Fozia Strengthens Thought Leadership Skills to Drive Social Change 

For Fijian Master of Strategic Public Relations student, Fozia, joining the WLI provides an opportunity to reflect on and develop the vital but often overseen human and thought leadership skills needed to drive change.

The self-confessed “workaholic” has held roles in communication; working in the private sector, philanthropy, and with charities over the last nine years, and said she was driven by goal-setting and meeting tight deadlines. 

Passionate about using effective communication and collaboration to drive social change, Fozia believes increasing opportunities for women’s leadership will help to foster inclusion and create positive outcomes in Fijian workplaces and communities.  

Reflecting on her own personal and professional experiences through WLI’s LeadershipConnect program, Fozia now believes that emotional intelligence and effective communication are essential to leadership.

“Leadership is more than qualifications, it is the actions derived to lead through the qualifications and experiences over the years, moulded through the process of learning and unlearning,” Fozia says, “It is the understanding of the people you lead and the knowledge sharing with them.”

Recognising the importance of and influence that people power can have in the social change process, Fozia is certain that compassion and a strong understanding of mental health are needed to lead effectively, especially in the current kaleidoscopic shift we all are in around the world.

“What is simply an ant hill to one can be a mountain for another,” Fozia explains, “We as leaders need to understand this in the people we lead and support the intricacies of human emotions, to drive change and nurture future leaders.”

In this vein, Fozia is learning to be more self-aware and receptive towards the essence of mindfulness, and is using LeadershipConnect as a platform to reflect on, “unravel”, and “unlearn some things and do things differently”.  

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The Leadership Series shares the experiences of WLI participants and alumni, and how the program moulds and showcases their leadership potential, meeting them where they are in their journey and contexts.

Read about how Aloesi and Diana build resilience to lead in male-dominated spaces in part one of the Leadership Series.