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International Women's Day 2021: Heroines of the Pacific

Success Stories 12 Mar 2021

Christiane Waneissi, New Caledonia

Born and raised in Lifou Island, (also called Drehu in the local language) Christiane attended the private college Havila and followed her older brothers to Noumea where she completed her secondary school education at Lycée Lapérouse.After high school, Christiane went on to study English at the University of New Caledonia but it was winning an NZ MFAT scholarship that would soon change the trajectory of her life leading her to do research on Pacific civilisation at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Returning to New Caledonia after spending a huge proportion of her study life Wellington, France and London, Christiane became a civil servant - a role which she would invest 20 years in.

However after turning 40, Christiane decided to take on a new challenge which was to start her own business. Being an entrepreneur is something Christiane takes seriously, she is involved with a group of other businesswomen in New Caledonia and the newly-formed Kanak entrepreneurs association.

Elizbeth Osifelo, Solomon Islands

Elizabeth Osifelo is taking on the male-dominated world of sports journalism. Hailing from the Solomon Islands, Elizabeth is a passionate advocate for women in sports development and has covered events like the 2019 Pacific Games held in Samoa. Elizabeth was the 2018 winner of The University of the South Pacific Journalism Tanoa Award and was also a PCF Media intern in that same year.

“My media experience began when I was a radio presenter at the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC),” she says.

“My role at SIBC was initially part-time, but it eventually led to full-time employment. From there I produced short radio programs, accompanied journalists to events and spent most of the time in the newsroom writing my own stories. My years at SIBC introduced me to my passion for the media industry. It has stuck with me ever since.

For me, good journalism is balanced, accurate and ethical. It shapes decision-making and, above all, holds government leaders accountable for their actions. It brings to light issues and a platform for those who are voiceless.”

Annajane Schutz, Kiribati

A career in engineering has always been her dream, says Annajane Leslie Schutz who is studying construction engineering at AUT University, supported by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade NZ Scholarship.’

Annajane is also a former PCF NZ Scholarship Intern, having completed her internship with Auckland Council from November 2019 to February 2020.

“Through the PCF Internship I worked alongside Auckland Council’s excellent building technical assessors and inspectors. They helped me broaden my knowledge about the building industry in New Zealand. We also did a lot of building inspections which exposed me to all the various stages of construction on numerous sites.

Climate change is the biggest challenge in Kiribati. It has impacts on accessibility to clean water and the livelihoods of the people. It also affects the sustainability of infrastructures, and the availability of resources in the country so there is a need for better and alternative construction practice to develop and sustain these structures.”

“In 10 years’, time, I want to be a senior female engineer equipped with knowledge and training to assist the expansion, innovations and changes of the construction industry in Kiribati or in the region. Most importantly, I would also want to be known as a daughter and a mother who made it in a male-dominated career.”

Myolynne Kim, Federated States of Micronesia

Myolynne Kim is a single mother, a PhD candidate and Pacific scholar who hails from Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia and is working on history of Chuuk through women’s voices and stories.

“As a woman living in the islands, I had worked on education reform, youth policy, gender and even cultural policy, but there were so many barriers due to gender and culture. But as a local woman I knew that a lot of us were using culture in a political way which could be disempowering for women.

“For example, we feed on a violent history of Chuuk because colonial histories tell us we are, and this violent culture endorses violence among young men. For many, domestic violence then became a problem. Learning more about local history and deep cultural values made me see some hope.

“I see local history as empowering women, men and therefore our Chuukese communities. This is what led me to gender focused history”.

Elizabeth Kite, Tonga

Elizabeth 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.

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.

“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,” Elizabeth said.

“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.”

Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel, Samoa

Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel needs very little introduction. She is known throughout Samoa as the ‘Queen of Longboats’ or the ‘Legendary Fautasi Skipper’.

Zita is a high chief, a gold medalist in the Olympic sport of archery, Consul of France in Samoa, a decorated Officer of France’s National Order of Merit, and the recipient of the prestigious Star of Oceania Award for her courageous leadership from the University of Hawaii

Zita has used her considerable platform to speak out against the against the abuse of women and children in Samoa. When she took a passionate stand against domestic violence on a Facebook Live video, it garnered over 300,000 views and thousands of shares. “We should all act to end the abuse against women and children which has ruined so many innocent lives and broken up families in our Pacific communities,” she says.