Image credit: Luisa Tuilau

Luisa Tuilau: Social media for social justice

Luisa Tuilau: Social media for social justice

From improvisation to organisation

Image above: Luisa with Dr Vanisha holding the flag of West Papua

Queen's Young Leader, Luisa Tuilau tells Leading Change how her mentor, Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakaoti’s helped her get better organised and trained her team in social media.

As a child, Luisa was eager to get involved in activities that enriched her holistic development. So at 13 years old, she volunteered in the South Pacific Games and quickly became friends with many young participants from around the region.

“As a young person trying to find my calling, I was passionate about bringing justice to the voiceless. I have not only become a voice for the underrepresented, I have also raised their voices so that they can be heard.”

At 24, Luisa is the co-founder of Youngsolwara Pacific, a regional group of young activists who are addressing social justice issues through dance, poetry, songs, art, video and social media. Youngsolwara stands for "young people, one ocean".

Youngsolwarans campaign against extractive industries (seabed mining) and advocate for actions on climate change, gender equality and West Papua’s cry for self-determination.

Youngsolwarans Poneke on parliament steps in Wellington, New Zealand

Youngsolwarans Poneke on parliament steps in Wellington, New Zealand

When Youngsolwara started, it faced many challenges. These included using social media as a tool to create awareness, reaching out to public and private sectors, involving the media and creating a solid foundation for financial support.

“When we started, we improvised with everything that we saw that could help us in addressing social justice issues,” says Luisa. “We do not have proper or stable funding but we have a voice, a creative mind and a willing heart in addressing social justice issues that need urgent attention.”

 To achieve Youngsolwara’s goal, Luisa was looking for mentoring support to:

  • increase media attention
  • raise awareness of the issues that concern Youngsolwara
  • strengthen the involvement of the public and private sectors and of non-governmental organisations
  • find a stable funder to help Youngsolwara outreach.

Breaking the ice

Luisa became Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakaoti’s mentee through the Queen's Young Leaders Mentoring Programme.

Vanisha is the Director of Making Connections, Fiji, and a research consultant who helps organisations plan, conduct and produce research, training and mentoring programmes in the Pacific region. As a World Vision Blog Ambassador, Vanisha uses her social media reach to highlight social issues. She is also a strong believer in online advocacy.

“It was quite easy to break the ice as we were both excited and equally happy to hear from each other,” Luisa recalls.

Apart from learning about each other, Luisa and Vanisha talked about their work and shared knowledge on what they knew about the Pacific region and the world.

They also discussed how social media can be used to effectively address social justice issues, the role of mentor and mentee, and the baseline impact chain.

“We met once every two weeks for a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes. In between meetings, we would contact each other via email once every week,” says Luisa.

Luisa and Vanisha had their mentoring sessions over Skype. They ensured that their meetings took place despite the poor internet connection. Luisa was very ill one day but still made their appointment. That day, they had a brief chat about self-care and Vanisha insisted Luisa hang up and go and rest.

Results

At the centre of Luisa and Vanisha’s mentoring session was how Youngsolwarans can use social media to address social justice issues in the Pacific more effectively.

Dr Vanisha coaches one of Youngsolwara in social media

Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakoti coaches one of Youngsolwara in social media

When Vanisha came to Fiji for vacation, she gave a practical session on the use of social media for advocacy to Youngsolwarans. Vanisha also shared knowledge on the tricks and ticks of social media platforms, especially how it can be used to suit Youngsolwara’s activities.

“Vanisha is empowering,” says Luisa, “She is a great mentor and friend. As a mentor, she has taught me so much, personally and professionally. She genuinely wants our youth group to grow and develop.”

She adds that mentoring has helped her create a workable plan. “It also helped me organise and prepare better on our online platform, thus improving more outreach and interaction with supporters and followers.”

Youngsolwara Pacific now has an official Instagram, Twitter and Facebook account. To check out Youngsolwara’s work and see how Dr Vanisha's social media training has helped Youngsolwarans, follow them on social media.

Social media training with Vanisha Mishra-Vakoti, March 2017

"Vanisha is empowering. She is a great mentor and friend. As a mentor, she has taught me so much, personally and professionally. She genuinely wants our youth group to grow and develop."

Luisa Tuilau

Luisa Tuilau

"The mentorship sessions definitely helped me create a workable plan. It also helped me organise and prepare better on our online platform thus improving more outreach and interaction with supporters and followers."

Luisa Tuilau