Up Close … with Tessa Siu, acting head of the Gender Secretariat-‘You create your own reality’


Tessa in her office

”My work is a challenge and interesting though it is not financially rewarding and that fancy,” she said during our meeting in her busy office on the fourth floor of Victoria House.

She was extremely welcoming though she had lots of work on her hand, including the job to develop the national gender policy and the plan of action.

A great part of our conversation was focused on spirituality – which I guess gives her the courage to carry on with her daily tasks as a job in social development with all its challenges can be rather depressing indeed.

“I’m not a religious person, though I did my primary and secondary schooling in Catholic schools in the UK, but I’m very spiritual.”

This reflects well in her demeanour -- she had this content and satisfying look throughout the interview with jokes and all smiles.

”I try to be positive in everything I do and keep reminding myself of that,” she said.
“Meditating is a way for me to keep a healthy mind and body,” she added.

Tessa has done a reiki second degree  ¬– a spiritual practice which uses a technique commonly called hands on healing as a form of complementary therapy which uses universal life energy.

Her interests and way of life show that she has great beliefs in the power of human beings.
She confirmed that when she said: “I believe that every individual makes his or her own reality.”

“Many of us do not realise the power that we have on our own lives, to control our destiny and if we keep being positive and meditate, even outside forces become non-existent.”

All this takes a lot of discipline! The 33-year-old is also a vegetarian – a choice she made at the young age of 17 and with discipline has been able to stick to this diet.

“It feels good to be a vegetarian, it makes you think about what you eat and the relationship between the earth, the food and your body,” she shared with me.

“I’ve taken this path for various reasons -- my love for animal and their rights and it’s also part of my spiritual beliefs.”

To unwind Tessa has other interests – cooking vegetarian food (of course), yoga, snorkeling and watching movies.

But her cat ‘Henry’ is also a great companion. Her best time though is spent with a book. Being a bookworm, she finds herself rereading the Lord of the Rings often.

Her background …

Tessa’s parents are Seychellois and she left Seychelles when she was three to settle with her mother in the UK.

Having spent 20 years there and three years in Hong Kong, Japan she dreamt of returning to live and work in Seychelles one day.

“Abroad we always spoke well of Seychelles and dreamt of the time when we would come back to settle once again.”

She has a brother one year younger than her.
“Then I’ve got an 11-year-old sister on my dad’s side.”

“Though we have this huge age gap, we’re still sibling and mess around all the time.”
Education wise, Tessa did her first degree in Development Studies and Applied Microbiology at the University of Central Lancashire and her Masters in Development Projects: Management and Implementation at the University of Reading.

After her studies she worked in social services in the UK for a year before coming to Seychelles in 2005.

“I had always known I was interested in social development work but I wanted to get into more detailed stuff like planning.”

Her dad had always really wanted her to go into a more profitable career.
“He would love for me to just go back to university and do accounting or law.”

Though Tessa knows that her chosen field is not one with a lot of money and prestige, she still has a passion for it.

More about her work …

The Gender Secretariat is now housed within the Social Affairs department, under which gender falls.

“When we speak about gender many think it’s all about women,” Tessa said.
“But it actually focuses on both – our work involves gender mainstreaming and advocating for gender equality.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on gender-based violence against women and several activities on men.”

“For example we’ve looked at gender socialisation in homes and its impact on boys’ achievements in primary and secondary schools.”

And they are now developing the national gender policy and the plan of action which basically looks at all aspects of development that would impact on social human development.
“It’s got about 11 pillars which include climate change, food security, education, governance and media.

“None of our staff has an academic background purely on gender so it’s learning on the job and lots of reading.

“I’ve been in there for eight years and you also learn by your mistakes but one has to be passionate about it as it is a taboo subject to sell to people.

“There are times after having worked on a big document and no one reads it, I keep thinking that I could have stuck to Arts and become a graphic designer.

“Maybe with the background I have now and the understanding in gender issues I would have been able to take a big report and make it into something more simple and interesting so that more people can grasp the loads of information much better.”

About the solutions for the social scourges in the country, Tessa said these issues are natural when we’re focusing so much on development.

“But we need to take a step backward and observe what we’re doing and instill some of those traditional values we have lost along the way,” she said.

By Jean Ladouceur

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