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PWPBN celebrates International Women’s Day

March 16, 2019
Donina Va’a, Lead Executive, PWPBN, DonitaHulme -MC, Seini Afeaki, Senior Advisor Executive, PWPBN, Hajeh Maha Abdo, CEO Muslim Women’s Association, Anshu Chandra, Mele Lavaka, Caseworker Linking Hearts Multicultural Family Service and Durga Owen, Politician, Member for Seven Hills.

“tiny droplets of us together can make an ocean of difference”

Oceanic pride at its finest radiated through the Holiday Inn Parramatta, Sydney, Australia on Saturday 16th March, as the Pacific Women’s Professional and Business Network (PWPBN) Inc. celebrated International Women’s Day.

The PWPBN’s International Women’s Day dinner carried the United Nations theme of #morepowerfultogether. Rev. Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi led the evening with a profound moment of silence to acknowledge the victims of the Christchurch Mosque massacre. It was a powerful moment signifying the network’s solidarity and further appreciation to theChief Executive Officer of the Muslim Women’s Association, Hajeh Maha Abdo along with others from the association, who took time out from mourning alongside their community to attend the event and expressed their heartened gratitude over the gesture.

Part of the festivities included stalls showcasing and selling products from businesses owned by Pacific women including; Katoa Collection, RakoPasefika, Tapastry Creative and Dawnela’s Boutique. It also included an endearing performance, inspiring attendees to keep getting back up despite falls and pits in life, through a rendition of British Singer and Songwriter, Estelle’s ‘Conqueror’, sung by Paulisasi Koroiwaca and Sina Vaa Samuels.

A powerful keynote speech was delivered by Lesley Moses Ieremia, Sales Analyst and Systems Manager, Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) which has more than 5000 hotels in almost 100 countries around the world. Lesley is also a PWPBN executive board member and shared her journey resulting in laughter and tears as she spoke of highs, lows, dreams, strengths and challenges. A highlight of her talk was the acknowledgement of the ‘Village’ who have helped shape the women, and as a Pacific woman the positive impact of having so many role models to take inspiration from. Lesley challenged attendees to continue to clear the way for the next generation. One of the attendees shared how inspired she was with Lesley’s talk, ‘ I felt like I was given the key to do better, to be better despite all the hurdles in my life, why should I be satisfied with just enough‘.

A ‘Powerful Together’ panel took place on the evening, moderated by Melissa Malu, also a PWPBN Board executive alongside inspirational and daring panellists Lauano Lauina Grace of Grace and Grace Plus, sportswoman Eliana Wilson, and young entrepreneur Florence Vaitaiki, who also shared their strengths and vulnerabilities.

A Millennials Panel moderated by Thelma Thomas included panellists, Miss Earth Samoa/ poet Rebecca Sang Yum and Amanda Fuiono, Principal Representative Rooty Hill High School. It wasencouraging and reassuring to hear their visions included continuing to open the door of opportunity for other Pacific women into the future.

This year’s dinner coincided with an awards ceremony recognising Pacific women in Australia. There were four categories sponsored by various businesses and presented by Ms Va’a, which included Business, Education, Leadership and Young Woman of the year.

– Candice Howman, of Empire Financial Corporation, Posh Boutique, A Plus Enterprises and Global Energy Corporation won the Digicel Business Woman 2019 award, presented by Sevu Waqa, Diaspora Manager Digicel AU.

– Rebecca Sang Yum, Miss Earth Samoa, Pharmacy Assistant, creator of the Tusitala Project and spoken word workshop facilitator in High Schools in Sydney, won the Young Women’s award sponsored by Pacific Women’s Professional and Business Network presented by Muslim Women’s Association CEO Hajeh Maha Abdo.

– Thelma Vuki an inspirational High School Teacher and now Deputy Principal Teacher at Rooty Hill High School and Cecelia Theodore, Chairperson Alofa Connections Inc, birthed out of the work of Samoa Victims Support Group (for Samoa), were both recipients of the Grace and Grace Plus Education award, presented by Lauano and Terry Grace of Grace and Grace Plus.

– Selena Short, the recipient of the Laeimau Oketevi Leadership award sponsored by the family of Laeimau Oketevi Tanuvasa Savea, is the Founder/CEO Crunch Fitness, co-founder of the V Group in Australia in 2007 creating the concept which won Best Gym in Sydney for 5 years in a row. The concept helped evolve into Hard Candy Fitness in partnership with Founder Madonna. The Va’a and Laeimau Oketevi family paid tribute to the late visionary and technology warrior, former CEO of CSL LTD, Samoa by sponsoring the award, presented by Laeimau Oketevi Tanuvasa’ Savea’s daughter Luisa Savea and her Aunt Menime Tanuvasa.

The winners of the Leadership and Education category – Selena Short and Candice Howman – were interviewed by ABC/ Radio Australia International on Monday 18th March 2019 on the Pacific Morning program, which is hosted by another Pacific woman, Tahlea Aualiitia.

In presenting the awards, Ms Va’a noted that the awards which were in the shape of a droplet of water is a gentle reminder “that if tiny droplets of water can make the vast ocean, then surely tiny droplets of us together can certainly make an ocean of difference”. She also noted that the though the focus is the Pacific women and girls living, working and studying in Australia, the network has lots of information and good connections that is relevant for the Pacific women around the Pacific region.

Senior advisor and mentor to the network, Seini Afeaki, gave the vote of thanks reiterating the words by Michelle Obama, stressing that the Award winners now have the responsibility to action these very words, to keep their doors open and reach back to give others a chance.

PWPBN acknowledges its partners who helped make the event a success, Holiday Inn Premier Partner Award partners, Grace & Grace Plus, Digicel and Laeimau Oketevi family.

More information about the PWPBN can be found on their Facebook page:

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