I once heard that “the most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood, and the
best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
I believe that this is the heart and soul of what Dialogue Fiji is about.
Dialogue Fiji conducted its Western Divisional scoping from the 21st to the 26th of April.
They carried out the scoping exercises in Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki and were privileged to convene at spaces that was convenient for the Dialogue Fiji team and the participants of the scoping exercise. It was a comprehensive six days of creating awareness on the work of Dialogue Fiji and more importantly, an opportunity for the team to reconnect with community leaders who had already undergone their ‘dialogue facilitation training’.
To say the work that Dialogue Fiji is doing is great would be a gross understatement.
For someone who had just joined the team as the Communications and Research Officer, the opportunity to see the Dialogue Fiji team out on the field engaging with people, listening to their stories and empowering them to feel safe enough in that ‘space’ to speak their minds, was a marvelous thing to witness.
Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. This timeless quote echoed through my soul as I watched the Dialogue Fiji team, effectively communicate with, and listen to, the diverse concerns of the many individuals who attended the scoping exercise.
What they were doing was creating ripples, by simply stating from the beginning, that they were there to listen, that they cared and that they would connect with them, first and foremost, as human beings, and then as facilitators, later.
It was the first time for me to be part of a ‘dialogue process’ set up by the Dialogue Fiji team, and it was such a grounding experience.
So simply elegant, that anyone who was part of it could instantly feel at ease by the professionalism and sincerity of the team conducting the scoping exercise.
“Dialogue for me means communication or discussions between people based on respect and understanding. We need to strive to be great listeners and allow people the space and freedom to express themselves, whilst trying our best to understand, assess, evaluate and analyze the extent of their situation, before responding.”
Those were the words of Nirmala Pariachi, one of the very first participants of the dialogue process, and now the Secretary to the Public Administrator of the Sigatoka Town Council.
“I have found that it is always good to be patient and open minded, to talk, to dialogue and then to come to an agreement.”
“At the end of the day, we want peace. Life is too short; this process can give us an opportunity to grow, through dialogue and communication, it’s all about respecting others and striving to live in harmony.”
Other participants who have gone through the dialogue process have found it really useful for their work.
Jone Nawaikula, who is now on the Community Development team for the Fiji Rotahomes Project, informed the Dialogue Fiji team that if it weren’t for that training his work would be a lot more difficult.
Nawaikula is part of the Fiji Rotahomes Projects major new development called the Koroipita Model Community which is a fully serviced professionally engineered community close to three kilometres from Lautoka City.
His line of work allows him to provide families with affordable homes and services, training, educational support and even income generating projects- enabling them to save and in time, move on to a better life beyond Koroipita.
From the dialogue process he has learnt to be a better listener and therefore allow him to better develop the capacity of the people he deals with.
“All our training with residents here at Koroipita is conducted through dialogue, we listen to issues, we discuss them, and then we identify ways we can move forward. The dialogue process really teaches you that people are experts on their own experiences and we can learn so much when we listen to their needs and move forward from that.”
Another former participant, Joana Qereqeretabua, feels the exact same way.
“In my line of work, my team and I need to raise awareness on the very sensitive topic of HIV; the dialogue process has helped a great deal with our approach to this issue. It helps people understand and breakdown the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.”
“We use the process of dialogue to open up the minds of people, not only as a tool to educate people, but to challenge them as human beings as well. For me, the exposure I have had to the dialogue process has helped me identify ways I can reach out to peoples’ minds and hearts. I am so grateful for it.”
Fanny Fiteli, Dialogue Fiji Coordinator succinctly summarised the work they carry out as a team.
“The whole point of the ‘dialogue process’ is to provide and promote, safe spaces for conflicting partners to communicate better and to bring peace to their respective communities, and Dialogue Fiji would be happy to convene those spaces”
“Conflict does exist in all or most sectors, levels and communities. We at Dialogue Fiji understand that respect should always be promoted in order to work through these differences. No matter how different your points of view, someone else’s idea is as important as your own, and the real secret to effective dialogue is listening to these diverse points of view and responding in ways that promote respect, understanding and peace.”