Investing in Fiji’s Water, and Youth Leadership: Broderick Mervyn’s Story

Tell us about yourself – who are you, where are you from?

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka and Noa’ia e mauri, my name is Broderick Mervyn, I am currently a 3rd Year student at the University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus completing a Bachelor of Laws. I am a volunteer for Scripture Union Fiji and Project Survival Pacific, member of the Pacific Youth Against Corruption and the 2015 Youth Prime Minister for Fiji. I am Rotuman and my family reside in Nadi.

How did your story with representing Fiji at this year’s 6th Asia Pacific Youth Parliament for Water begin?

I heard about this program through a colleague at the University of South Pacific and took the initiative to apply as it was eligible for the Undergraduate and graduate students in the Asia Pacific region. The topic was thought-provoking considering the current water issues we face in our country so I gave it a shot and was pleased to be accepted as one of the delegates.

What’s the Asia Pacific Youth Parliament all about?

The 6th Asia – Pacific Youth Parliament for Water is a gathering of youth delegates representing different countries within the Asia – Pacific region, to bring a diversity of young voices together toward global water issues and in the process encouraging them to deeply consider and explore practical solutions for water-related challenges that are confronted today.

There is a diversity of programs and activities from international conferences, replicating congressional actions, where delegates of each country increase their awareness on water problems, and in the process strengthen their youth networks to address the environmental crisis.

Through your work, how do you hope to make a difference?

The participants and organisers of the 6th Asia – Pacific Youth Parliament for Water

Giving back to the community is always on my to-do list, but it takes time and a commitment. When I decided to make a change, I simply find what I want to change about the issue, and decide what I think I should do about it. I would encourage young people to think outside the box, to move out of their comfort zones and be an agent of change. Young people will need to find other youths who they think they need to involve, whether to change what they do or support what you’re doing.

If you can create a team to join you, by giving everyone a role as an ambassador and a change agent, you’re helping them to put their own ideas into reality and make a much wider difference and that is what we need in our community.

I hope to see young people make a change, realise the potential in themselves, and believe they can do anything they want if they are serious about it. It doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal but success is every change however small you succeed in making, and quite often in my experience, ones you never thought you would.

What have been the most challenging experiences in your journey so far?

In international events, with diverse group of speakers, highlighting role models from diverse backgrounds and moving beyond gender where diversity is the key driver for improvement – I continue to challenge unconscious bias and ensure that mistakes are not carried into the future. Mingling with diverse teams with different perspectives, seeking out difference, appreciating and leveraging it. I have learnt to embrace challenges in a foreign country and not shy away or we’ll find our voice is missing and biases will be reinforced for the next generation, if we don’t make a stand now on what we young people believe in.

Broderick presenting Fiji’s Country Report to the representatives of Myanmar and Vietnam.

On the home front, as a full time University student, I dodge the perils of overcommitting to work or in volunteerism so as I am not wearing out so thin and render myself ineffective and avoid the extreme, persistent sense of not giving anything, the proper attention.

I guard my time very carefully, choose my attitude, refocus my thoughts and choose to behave productively. At times it may seem difficult to look on the bright side when you’re surrounded by negativity but I often seek out positive people to keep myself balanced. Negative people can monopolize your time, even when they are not with you so I never open my doors to such. The focus is more on my time and energy on becoming my best self and achievements such as this recent program I attended, that itself motivates me to take my goals to the next level.

The most challenging part of my journey is giving everything I’m involved with my utmost 100%.

“Life is about knowing when to throw your hat over the wall and when to just keep walking past the wall and move on to another.”

What were the most rewarding lessons?

Learning to be self-sufficient and simply understanding the faculty known as “grit,” the one that allows people to power through difficult problems, absorbing and learning from setbacks rather than giving up.

What are the biggest misconceptions in your line of work? How do you feel we can address them?

There are many misconceptions about youth leadership. The general public and young leaders themselves need to fully understand the role of young leaders in order to allow them to grow. It’s easy to develop these mixed messages when we have observed inconsistent models throughout our lives. Leadership is not something some people are just born with like a personality trait, but it is a teachable skill. Anyone, at anytime can exercise leadership when the proper principles are applied. You may hear people say that leadership is easy. It is not that easy but it is a challenging and rewarding task. It is one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. Being a young leader is not having a magnetic personality, it is about having depth of character, an intense passion to fulfil a mission, and consistent, persistent actions to further a cause.

Broderick during Cultural Night.

To assume that leaders don’t have to work is not true, they delegate work to others based on the needs of the organisation and the individual’s abilities and interests. However, no one works harder than these young leaders. Many may think that young leaders are the people with some fancy rank or title and in these important roles all wield tremendous power and authority. But leadership is more about the person than the position. As a young leader, I am always reminded of the film Braveheart, William Wallace states, “Men don’t follow titles; they follow courage.” It’s not being commanding, it is about empowering others to succeed by making assignments, clarifying responsibilities, assigning resources, monitoring progress, and offering suggestions. This ability is not only given to a few, I believe everyone is a leader. Whether it is at home, school, workplace, church or community – everyone has a leadership role sometimes. Leadership is a continuum from minor to major responsibilities that involve and affect many people.

It is not about being liked by everyone, it is not a popularity contest. It is seeking to do the right thing, for the right reasons, with the right people, and for the right results. Mark Twain said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Young leaders must understand that leadership is about serving others, not about being served. It has nothing to do with age, it has everything to do with influence. Young leaders are not only “the leaders of the future;” they are leaders right now – today.

What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of pursing a similar pathway?

Young people are the future and they are the now. It is these young people who will grow to inspire our next generation and continue to revolutionise the world. Everyone has equal opportunities and our young people need to step up and grab platforms that empowers their voices, giving them the opportunity to speak out about topics affecting them, while also sharing stories to inspire other young people in various walks of life. It is all about being the change that we want to see and engaging more in our community.

If young people want to see any sort of change in a society that would prefer to ignore them and hold them down, then we need to make noise, shout as loud as we can and ensure that our voice is heard, otherwise things will continue to stay the same.

Hopefully this insight into young people will allow wider society to gain a deeper understanding of who we are as people, rather than labelling us on what we’ve done or what we do. There is great potential in all of us, which we need to tap into, because we can make a genuine difference.

As a young Pacific youth, chase your passion, grab those skills and knowledge and start your journey. Tell yourself that you can do it and prove to others that nothing is impossible.

How can we support you and your work?

Water Parliament participants outside Jangsaengpo Whale Museum.

Provide more intensive programs designed to recognise and support youth’s efforts to enact positive societal transformation, supports young people to become leaders and representatives of their communities. In this way, young people will also be supported to take the lead on and promote positive change for themselves and their peers in a variety of settings.

Our Ministry to Youth and Sports to assist young people identify projects, campaigns and events that they think will benefit them, their peers or their community. They can help make these activities a reality with financial support, professional partnerships and access to community venues. The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to look at the criteria of selection of youth representatives to international conferences and remove bias and nepotism altogether when selecting youths for representation.

I’d like to thank Broderick for sharing his story, and wish him all the best in his future endeavours. You can read more about Broderick here, and The 6th Asia Pacific Youth Water Parliament here

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Arieta Tora Rika is a Tongan-Fijian Freelance Writer, Digital Communications Specialist, and Talanoa’s Founder and Creative Director. Born in Darlinghurst in the late 80s, she spent most of her childhood in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, and all of her teen years in Tonga. She now lives in Western Sydney with her husband Josese.