Kizzy Kalsakau is a well-known radio personality and newsreader at 96 Buzz FM. With her distinct voice and interviewing style, Kizzy shares her experience of working as a woman in the media industry in Vanuatu and how she achieved her childhood dream of becoming a radio star. Kizzy also reveals how her strict upbringing by a paramount chief from one of Vanuatu’s most distinguished families helped shaped her career and character.

Kizzy Kalsakau

I was born on Iririki Island at the first British Hospital built in Vanuatu. Back then, Vanuatu was known as New Hebrides. I am from Ifira and still live on the island. I come to work every morning on a boat! I’m a daughter of a paramount chief. My father, Chief Graham Kalsakau, was the most influential person in my life. He always wanted unity for the people and knew how to lead them. 

Being Raised By A Paramount Chief Meant We Had A Strict Upbringing

Being raised by a chief meant that my four brothers, two sisters and I had a strict upbringing. When you grow up with a family such as ours, you know your place. You learnt when to speak, you were taught obedience and you knew the right way to approach your parents and elders.

Sadly I think these values are a bit lost today. The younger generation doesn’t even know how to address people anymore. They just make a sound with their mouth to call you, rather than say ‘Mama’ or ‘Papa’ like we did back in the day. It comes down to a lack of teaching in the house I think. The modern life also easily influences young people to forget their culture and custom.

I do worry about what I see in my village. Sometimes it seems as if they don’t care anymore or have any life goals. They don’t want to learn and only look for short-term satisfaction. But in saying that, no matter our religious, political or land differences, when it comes to the face of the chief, we all assemble, including the disobedient youth. As the people of Ifira, we always stand as one.

My Father Was My Hero

I hope to be like my father. He died the same year my daughter was born. It was like a big castle had tumbled down, my hopes were gone. As a paramount chief, it was taboo to be too close to him, but we had a special bond. Out of all the kids, I was the only one who was allowed to pinch his cheeks. He was a real leader.

Growing up, he created a space where women felt safe to speak, even though our culture says that women have to respect what men say. I think that helped shape how I work in the media – it’s about being respectful and confident in your tone and approach.

It also helps that I’m Francophone, not Anglophone. I believe that Francophones are totally different. We speak our mind, whether it’s bad or good, we just put it out there! If I’m on air and the wrong words come out, I don’t care if someone is laughing at me. If I make a mistake, that’s how I learn.

Kizzy Vanuatu Buzz Fm

My Childhood Dream Was To Work On The Radio

I accidently fell pregnant when I was at Lycee Louis Antoine de Bougainville. I lost my dream of finishing my education in New Zealand or Noumea but I still had the courage to continue my goal and now I have the job that I dreamed of when I was a kiddo.

Back in the days, I would listen to the radio in the afternoon after finishing school. Since Radio Vila wasn’t an everyday broadcast, we’d tune into Radio Australia ABC instead. I wanted to be Bruce Hill, who was the broadcaster at the time. I didn’t even understand what he was talking about, he was speaking English and I only knew French! I just wanted to listen to his voice. I actually thought they had musicians live on air, then another live band after that ready to go. It really sparked my imagination and that’s how I got interested in radio. I’ve been on the radio for nearly 15 years now.

I Have Never Experienced Discrimination From Men

This is the second time anyone has ever interviewed me. I don’t let people ask me questions. I ask the questions. I’ve been lucky that I don’t need to look for people to find the news. They usually come to me. I guess it’s because I represent them in some way. I speak for everybody – not just women or children, I really try to be inclusive of men too.

To be honest, I’ve never experienced discrimination. I’ve always felt welcome by everybody, whether it’s the youth, a man or a government minister. I think it’s because of my passion for the job. Doing your job with passion leads you everywhere. If I didn’t have the passion, I think I would pull back and observe. But if that happened, how would I get their voices back to the media? How would I tell the audience about these events that are occurring?

Back in the early 80s and 90s, male journalists would always be given the lead to stories. But things have changed. You can challenge a man, you can do the same thing as a male reporter or cameraman. I don’t believe there are barriers. You only need to be equipped with passion. When I attend a workshop or function or event, I can still see our female journalists in the corner because they are afraid. They shouldn’t be, because if you’re in the media, it’s your responsibility to bring these issues to the light. You have to go out there and get it.

Kizzy Kalsakau Radio

Doing Your Job With Passion Leads You Everywhere

My advice to any woman aspiring to be in the media industry is to have passion. If you don’t have it, it’s useless doing a media job in Vanuatu. It’s a hard, frontline job that requires flexibility and a lot of time. You also need courage because you are tackling a lot of issues. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to work in the media. My family comes second. I had a partner once who actually worked in the media and he didn’t even understand my job! I had to make a decision. I kept my job and let him go.

Luckily I met my hubby. We have a three-year-old adopted son. My hubby understands me and he understands the job. I think that’s the key of balancing work and family – having a strong support system who encourage and appreciate you. Technology helps keep the balance too – I can easily communicate with them with my mobile phone.

The Biggest Issue Women Face in Vanuatu is a Lack Of Leadership

I think the biggest issue women face in Vanuatu is our lack of leadership in politics. Women here are separated in thoughts and ideas. We lack a unity because some women think they can do better than the other. How are we going to grow or achieve what we want for the betterment of women with this kind of thinking? We need to stick together because we’re fighting the same cause anyway.

If we want seats in parliament, which is highest decision body in the country, then we need to show men we are capable and that we aren’t just secondary citizens whose place is in the kitchen. It needs to start at grass roots level to shift these attitudes. We have to prove that we are leaders by continuously involving ourselves in our community. From there, we can show that we can do the same things as men.