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Pacific Futures speaker profile: Elizabeth V. Kite

Success Stories 9 Oct 2019

Elizabeth V. Kite is the Founder and President of Tonga's only youth-led NGO, Tonga Youth Leaders (TYL). The organisation focuses on empowering Tongan youth to lead and be catalysts of positive change. TYL runs Tonga's very first and only youth-led online publication called Le'o (Voice in Tongan) and a weekly TV and Radio programme with the national Tonga Broadcasting Commission.

Elizabeth also is the Pacific Regional Representative for the Commonwealth Youth Council, the world's largest and most diverse youth group, with the council representing the 1.2 billion young people of the Commonwealth.

Elizabeth shared with PCF why she is passionate about empowering Pacific youth and her journey that has led her to where she is today.

On what motivated her to start Tonga Youth Leaders:

I realised that there were so many young people leading positive change in their communities across our Kingdom but they lacked the proper support, resources and finances to further their good efforts and develop their potential. While they were helping everyone else, they weren't receiving the help they needed. So, I created Tonga Youth Leaders to serve as that platform for young Tongan leaders to be empowered, educated, and receive the support and guidance that they need for the work they do. The good work these young people lead is exactly what we need to encourage and push for more of in Tonga, especially if we want to go in the direction of prosperity. So, after I completed my Leading Change Course through the Queens Young Leaders programme, I felt equipped and ready to launch my project which is now Tonga Youth Leaders

Who inspires her:

The young leaders I get to work with inspire me every minute of every day. They serve as constant motivation seeing their passion to do good for their communities. They also serve as great comfort, providing the certainty that Tonga's future is indeed a bright one because of their dedication to serve all and leave nobody behind.

On what makes TYL unique:

TYL's model is a unique one and this is purposely done because we are impatient for the results that we feel we need. We have learned from the efforts of our Government to other youth organisations and we apply these lessons with all that we do. To date, we have been successful with every goal we've put down for ourselves. The very first thing that sets us apart from most other groups in the Pacific, is that we are completely youth-led. From our Royal Patron, HRH Crown Princess Sinaitakala to our board members and all our team members, we are all youth.

Success stories or highlights since starting up TYL:

As an NGO, being offered a weekly TV and monthly Radio programme by our National Broadcasting Commission has been one of our biggest steps forward because this has expanded our outreach nationwide by hundreds. This TV programme is a first in Tonga and is led completely by our team. This has really allowed for us to amplify youth voices on the issues that matter to us as young people and to celebrate the good work of the young leaders our Kingdom has who often go unnoticed.

One of the success stories we have is from our last year's Girls Takeover Parliament (GTP). One of our GTParliamentarians, Mele Fonua claimed that day was the start of her journey to becoming a politician. During debates Mele was able to raise concerns she had with the Lord Speaker Fakafanua - a first for any young female in Tonga. Since then she has joined our team and sits as our Secretary to the Board. She is now also the Deputy Chair for the Working Committee for this year's Girls Takeover Parliament Tonga 2019. This is the type of progress we help give our young leaders by equipping them with the support they need.

The challenges that come with running an NGO:

To be completely frank, constantly having to remind people that youth leaders are equal partners and not a token or box to tick off a checklist to make places look like they're inclusive. TYL are made up of some of Tonga's brightest and hard working, from College Dux's to business owners, our team have a lot of value to add to the tables of decision-making. It's a work in progress but people are catching on. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health reached out to me and asked if we could partner to work on various projects aimed at youth, and only recently the Ombudsman's office reached out for a similar reason.

Elizabeth's vision for Pacific youth:

My vision is for us as a youth to be self-sufficient and thriving. The only way we can do this is if we are united in our efforts and I believe our generation is making this happen.