Asenaca’s strong will – A girl with hearing impairment defies odds

Asenaca Takayawa with her family in Somosomo Taveuni. Picture: SUPPLIED

Asenaca Takayawa lost her sense of hearing at the age of 8. But that hearing impairment has not deterred her from pushing the boundaries and pursuing her dreams.

Born and raised in Somosomo Village, Taveuni, the 30-year-old is now a businesswoman.

She is married with three children and operates her tapa design and mat weaving business from home trading as Asenaca Takayawa Enterprise.

Asenaca attended Somosomo District School but dropped out early at Year 3, around the time she started losing her sense of hearing.

By the age of 9, she was totally deaf but could still read because she had learnt this from Year 1 to 3. This was obvious during her interview with this paper.

She answered questions emailed to her without having an interpreter to help.

To share her life experience, The Fiji Times communicated with her via virtual interview with interpreter, Peceli Tawaketini. The interview was facilitated by the Soqosoqo Vakamarama iTaukei Cakaudrove.

Mr Tawaketini was also hired to help Asenaca to register her business three weeks ago. Asenaca said the life she experienced while growing up turned her into a strong person.

“People used to make fun of me because I was deaf and couldn’t speak properly but I refused to let it affect me. I turned a blind eye to all their teasing,” she said.

“I completed my Year 6 education in Somosomo then went to attend the Hilton Special School in Suva and spent two years at Gospel High School before returning to the village.

“But all my life I have always believed in myself, that I could achieve anything I want to do. I did this by learning my grandmother’s skills of weaving and designing masi. At the age of 12, I watched and helped her design her masi and weave.

Through her daily observations, Asenaca learnt the trick of the trade, from drawing designs to cutting stencils using old x-ray films.

“That’s how it all started. When I returned to the village, I helped my mother because that was our source of income. My dad was also deaf so we all helped out to financially support the family,” she said.

“Then I started doing my own and sold to customers around the country including relatives in Suva who ordered for events and even for a fashion show they once had.

“So this year I decided to register my own business as it recovered from the impacts of COVID-19. During the pandemic, I couldn’t sell my products because all events were cancelled and movements were restricted.”

To keep up with demands, Asenaca had to work long hours to meet customer demand.

“The business has been really good. I receive two to three orders in a week,” she said.

“I receive very good income and I am able to support my family. I hope to build our own house soon.”

To communicate with her husband and daughters, Asenaca said her family members have had to devise their own ‘home grown’ sign language.

“We have our own sign language and we use that all the time but it’s good because I know basic reading and that helps a lot.”

“I usually read my children’s lips and can make out what they are saying.”

Asenaca’s story is true testament to the fact that nothing is stronger than the human heart when it has the will to survive.

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