The Women With Vision event by K&D Management is one that’s close to my heart. In recent weeks I’ve mentioned my thoughts on women genuinely supporting women – that it just doesn’t happen often enough in our Pacific community. I also echo the words of my friend Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakaoti in saying, “I haven’t understood how important the whole concept of women supporting women really was until I experienced the un-supportiveness of women I admired and respected.”

In saying that, my experience with women supporting women has made me cherish the relationships that I’ve had the privilege of finding, nurturing and growing throughout my lifetime, especially throughout my career. I like to call these women the gems in our community, and Jannike Seiuli is one of them. Busy killin’ it in the world of fashion and event management, Jannike could easily say she’s too busy hustlin’, developing and raising the standards in her industry. But when it comes to women supporting women, Jannike says it’s a cause worth carving out effort, time and energy for – founding the bi-annual Women With Vision event.

“Why am I passionate about our project Women With Vision? For me I love meeting new faces. A conversation with another like-minded person can carry on forever. Having that connection and helping other women or seeing them connect with others is something that I love to see. I believe that women need me-time as well. We can get caught up with work, family, and our role as a mother and don’t realise what it’s like to have time to ourselves. I love seeing those in attendance, just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.”

When Jannike asked me to join three other women as a guest speaker at this event, I jumped at the opportunity to share my story in a room full of women with the same heart, showing up to support Jannike but also to invest in their own vision as women.

“Ni Bula Vinaka kemuni na marama, malo e lelei, and… g’day!” I was nervous, head foggy from the full day of travel from Suva to Nadi then onto Sydney the day before. I’d planned to share my story as a Pacific storyteller, but inspired by the rawness, vulnerability and honesty of the speaker before me, Personal Trainer, Owner and Director of Enliven Coaching Gym Becky Shaw, I decided to change my focus to sharing my experience of childhood to adulthood, career, relationships and vision through the lens of a woman.

Talanoa at Women With Vision, by Mona Seiuli.

For ten minutes, I stood there and spoke about my identity issues as a third culture kid, and my constant need to prove myself as young girl and woman and how that influenced my choices in relationships and in my career. The story naturally flowed into a part of my life that I’d never publicly spoke about before, the experience of infertility and losing a pregnancy through miscarriage earlier this year. Ask me about this experience just three months ago, and I would’ve brushed you off with a surface answer of “everything happens for a reason”. But on this day, at this event, standing in front of a group of engaged, warm and accepting women, I felt the courage and strength to dig deep and talk about this part of my life.

I’m not sure if my story inspired the next speaker or not, but I was moved to tears when successful business owner and former media and sales manager Doreen Mckibbin stood up and spoke about her own experience of miscarriage and stillbirth. I know I wasn’t the only person in the room with tears in my eyes. The tears didn’t stop there, the next speaker Nikki Quinn got up and shared her story of experiencing childhood cancer and the impact it’s had on her life so far, as well as the strength she’s found through surviving such a harrowing illness.

This is why spaces such as this are so important. They give us the room to sit down, or stand up, share our stories, and exhale. They give us the opportunity to connect with like-minded women, from different walks of life and with different opinions. They allow us to be imperfect, and to talk about those flaws openly and honestly. They also give us a place where we can reflect on our strength and courage as individual women, but also as a collective group of friends, sisters, mothers, and so much more.

I’d like to thank Jannike for organising this event, for bringing us together and for investing in us as women. I noticed all the small, warm touches that made the event even more special – gift bags, vouchers, free donuts (you know I was banging the table about this one!), games and delicious food. I loved her attention to detail and just being so damn organised – woman you are amazing and I’ve now seen with my own eyes why you’re so successful in your field of profession.

I’d also like to thank the women who approached me after the formalities of the event to share their own stories of loss through miscarriage and stillbirth. It takes courage to connect, even one on one. I invited women to share their stories with me if they felt it would help with their own healing and connection, and I’m thankful for the women who took me up on that invitation. There were also many other women who approached me just for a hug, a photo and others to ask me questions about my work. I’d like to thank them too.

Overall, this piece really is a dedication to all the women I’ve met who’ve supported me along my way. The women who encouraged me to step out in faith, to invest in myself and in my dreams, and the women who showed up to support me, especially when they didn’t even understand what it was I was trying to do! I love you all and I thank you for your contribution in my life. This is also dedicated to you, the reader. Regardless of whether you identify as a woman or not, I’d like to encourage you to support the women in your life. Show up to their events, read their writing, share their work and buy or donate when and where you can. When you invest in women, you’re investing in all of us.

“Investing in women’s lives is an investment in sustainable development, in human rights, in future generations – and consequently in our own long-term national interests.” Liya Kebede, Ethiopian-born model, maternal health advocate, clothing designer, and actress.

Talanoa with Jess Baker, by Mona Seiuli.