By Rowena Acraman

In a resounding call for inclusive leadership and gender equality, Cook Islands Minister for Internal Affair, Vainetutai Rose Brown, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting, shared a powerful speech Thursday in Suva.

The first ever face-to-face meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIF)brought together distinguished ministers, youth representatives, and advocates from the expansive Pacific region, highlighting the important contributions of women leaders and their unwavering commitment to effecting positive change.

Brown commenced her address by invoking a chant from the Pacific islands, “Moemoea kanako ite enua ote tane. Tai mata e pipiri tai mata e kakana,” which carries a symbolic reminder for leaders to remain vigilant and alert. This call resonated with the audience, emphasizing the crucial role of leaders in safeguarding and nurturing their communities.

The meeting engaged in discussions concerning the numerous responsibilities carried by women leaders, who hold leadership roles both within the political sphere and within their communities, families, and households. It was widely recognised that these women shoulder a substantial caregiving load.

“To all the leaders in the room, particularly our women leaders. You not only hold leadership positions in your respective countries, you also hold roles in your community, your churches, sports clubs and you also hold important roles in you families, you are daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, I want to acknowledge the unequal burden of care you bear,” she stated.

Brown emphasised that achieving equality is not solely the responsibility of women but also men play a pivotal role in ensuring parity.

She called for collaborative efforts to promote fairness and inclusivity.

“For us to make meaningful and sustainable change, we must always include our men and boys, your perspective and understanding is key. We stand beside you,” Brown emphasised.

The Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting is an important event that is preparing for the upcoming 52nd PIFS Leaders Meeting in Cook Islands later this year.

Brown encouraged everyone to make sure that the things talked about in these meetings matter to all women, no matter where they come from.

She asked everyone to use words that everyone can understand, so that everyone feels included and part of the important discussions about leadership and the Pacific Way.

Brown brought everyone together with a shared goal, recognising the special contributions of each person.

She emphasised the importance of everyone’s presence and efforts, expressing her belief in making important progress together.

Her impactful statements stood as an acknowledgement to the outstanding women leaders who are paving the way, ensuring a future marked by their commitment, solidarity, and positive changes in the Pacific region.