The Platformm is excited to share the journey of Mrs Leba Lisa Rokoyadre, Warrant Officer at the British Army and the Founder of Fiji Servicewomen UK (FSUK). She kindly spares time from her hectic schedule to talk to us about family, the military and her vision for the future.
By Miri Suraki.
“…Let me tell that to you again: No-one is going to take you to the front of the line unless you push yourself to the front of the line.”
Sean Combes: 2014 Commencement Address at Howard University.
Mrs Leba Lisa Rokoyadre is well acquainted with the concept of taking herself to the front of the line. It is something that she has constantly done throughout her career and which has seen her rise through the ranks to become a Warrant Officer in the Army. Warrant Officers (WO’s) are subject matter experts who bridge the gap between Commissioned Officers and the service workforce.
This goes back to 13th Century Class-Based Britain when Commissioned officers were Aristocrats who did not possess the experience to run a unit therefore had to grant skilled men ‘Officer’ status by issuing Warrants to them so that they could be elevated above the normal workforce. So Mrs Rokoyadre is under warrant from the State to provide technical advice on supply and logistics related matters. This is no mean feat and the journey to WO for her has seen her constantly getting out of her comfort zone and pushing herself to the front of the line.
Born to Lemeki Cagialau and Seasea Ranadi, Leba Lisa spent her childhood growing up in Nadonumai Road in Lami and grew she up witnessing a formidable woman figure early on in her life- her mum. With her father out at sea most of time due to his work as a government maritime official, it was left to her Kai Raralevu mum to bring up her five children. Now Leba Lisa is a formidable mum herself with a supportive husband, Mr Jope Rokoyadre, who is from Nakelo, Tailevu. Together they have two children, Maria Rose and Jayden Ravesi.
Leba Lisa enlisted in the British army in 2002 and undertook Phase 2 Supply Specialist training at the Defence Logistics School in Deepcut. This was a period of controversy for this Barrack as between 1995 to 2002, four recruits had lost their lives in self-inflicted gunshot injuries. Reports have highlighted the toxic culture at the barracks yet she makes no mention of this tumultuous time in the British Army. Infact she is certain that she was “,.. treated equally from the start and was given the same opportunities others had”.
The Deepcut Review conducted by the government in 2006 mentions a Fijian female’s encounter with one of the victims a few hours before he lost his life (pg. 331/508). There is no report available on this in our community however, it is probable that other Fijian servicewomen may have faced the challenges the four late recruits did. These topics, amongst others, are best discussed in safe spaces and divulged to people who may have the same lived experience. This is one of the reasons why Leba Lisa has now Founded the Fijian Servicewoman UK group (FSUK).
“…be kind, be yourself, treat people with respect, humility, integrity. It’s the same value my parents taught me in my early years is what I live by.”
Her first attempt at starting the group was in 2018, this was the same year she was presented with a citation for 15 years exemplary and irreproachable service. She was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal and within a month was coordinating the annual stocktaking programme to meet their Specialist Unit HQ deadlines. While she excelled in this, she didn’t quite succeed in getting FSUK rolling. However she is upfront about this failure, and the others in her life, but over time one gets to learn that this is a Leba Lisa Rokoyadre trait. She says things with her chest- the good, the bad and the ugly- and once she discloses this she simply moves on and pushes herself to the front of the line.
For instance in 2011, she was deselected within three months of her promotion to sergeant and received a two-year ban on any promotion to top it off. She does not sugar coat this incident either. After three months of self-reflection her takeaways were:
- Would she continue to be bold and stand up for others? “In a heartbeat- yes”,
- What could she improve on? Her reaction, “I would handle the situation differently.”
Within a few months of her deselection, Mrs Rokoyadre was volunteering for Operational HERRICK 16. This time she was with the 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment as the Ammunition accountant. It is this streak of putting herself forward that has drawn me to Leba Lisa.
Recently I have been curious about people that do this. After meeting the Honorable MP Lenora Qereqeretabua in one of the recent projects we undertook, I realised that she shared some same traits as Mrs Rokoyadre. They have nothing to lose in terms of career and family yet choose to put themselves forward because their hearts compel them that there is a difference they can bring. MP Lenora literally put her money where her mouth is and stood for elections in Fiji when there was no guarantee of free and fair elections and where she is exposed to vile Kishore Kumars’ in our society.
MP Qereqeretabua and Mrs Rokoyadre are examples of people who encounter criticism because they dare to throw their hats into the race. They are women who know the cost of losing but dare regardless, and they are sisters who clear the way for us because its is just in their character to do so.
Lisa is once again putting herself forward this year to re-ignite the FSUK. This time there is an indication that her perseverance may just pay off. With a group of other servicewomen from each of the service arm, they have embarked on a clear vision that will help their fellow sisters break the proverbial glass ceiling in the military. The glass ceiling that Lisa has managed to shatter.
Lisa was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 in June this year and this followed her External placement at Stansted Airport in March last year. The airport was the first in England to sign up to the UK Armed Forces Covenant and works with the military to provide civilian exposure to service personnel. When Lisa put herself forward for the opportunity, she was still staff sergeant and was the lowest rank to apply. The officials at Stansted noted her outstanding skills and their delight at having had her onboard for their first ever Military Placement Scheme. This opportunity would not have been possible if she had not put forward and limited herself to her rank.
“Set yourself a clear goal- whether it is for your career or what you aspire to achieve in life- and work hard towards it because our destiny is determined by our individual choice and should not be left to chance”
Remember the Sean Combs at the start of this article? Well he was referring to his New York marathon experience where he realised that he had to leave the ‘booty singin’ P.Diddy’ and bring the real Sean Combs to the frontline. To successfully complete the 26.2miles, he knew he had to be as close as possible to the front and he realised that his celebrity status would not mean that he would get a special invitation to join the professional Kenyan runners at the front- No- he would have to push his way to the front. And that is what he did and it is his advice for the rest of us.
Sean Combs, Leba Lisa Rokoyadre and MP Qereqeretabua have reminded us that no one will beg us to get to the front of the line so that we can compete. We have to take ourselves to the front. There is a common Fijian saying that goes, “E sega ni dua e tubera mai na kemu tabua.” Too often we have used this as a pass not to exert ourselves and we have used this expression to shame and subdue others who seek to change the status quo. Maybe it’s time we modified this expression to, “Kua ni waraka me tuberi mai na kemu tabua.”
Let’s not wait for things to be perfect before we get the courage to step out. A Chinese proverb says that those who deliberate fully before taking a step will spend their entire life on one leg. Nike says Just do it; we are the change that we are waiting on! This is what Lisa’s next chapter is about. She is putting herself to the front of the line and dedicating herself to share her time and her experience to other servicewomen out there.
I take my hats off to her for putting herself forward to lead this change by founding the FSUK and I wish her and the committee the very best. FSUK has a comprehensive strategic plan however there is one thing I know for sure: with Lisa at the helm she will be pushing other servicewomen to the front of the line with her- because she makes no qualms about her goal of #MakingWomenVisible.
Sheroes are made of such stuff as Leba Lisa Rokoyadre and she is definitely in my sheroes list!