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Pacific women’s NGO marks 40 years of service

Wednesday 16 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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AUCKLAND – The New Zealand non government women’s organisation Pacifica has just marked 40 years of service to Pacific women, families and communities.

More than 150 delegates attended the 40th anniversary conference.

Pacifica is a national non government organisation (NGO) for Pacific women living in Aotearoa New Zealand.

There are currently 17 Pacifica branches throughout New Zealand from Northland to Invercargill.

A foundation member, Francis Campbell from the Tokoroa branch, says Pacifica has come along way since 1976, and she believes its still a significant organisation.

“We’ve had projects like breast screening, encouraging our women to go along, cervical smears, we’ve got at the moment the rheumatic fever programme that’s going on in Auckland just some many wonderful things.”

She says the organisation has always encouraged education among its members.

It’s the secret to success, it’s the road to success and so many of them graduates and university educated people , and it’s just so wonderful to see.”

The Labour party’s spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs, Su’a William Sio, was at the 40th celebrations. He paid tribute to the foundation members of PACifica.

“These are the pioneers back in the 1960s and 70s who pioneered the dreams if you like when our Pacific people first left the islands to come here.”

But he also says that there’s a need to reset the organisation’s vision with the growing number of Pacific women who were born in New Zealand.

The national president of Pacifica, Caren Rangi, says encouraging more young women to be part of Pacifika is something all the branches throughout the country are working on.

She says the organisation is aware that some of the issues facing young Pacific women have changed over the years.

“One of the things Pacifica has grappled with for a number of years is how do we make ourselves relevant to the Pacific young women of today.

“Circumstances are different to what they were 40 years ago, to what they were 20 years ago, so as a national executive, we don’t have all the answers, which is why we are pleased to have the youth here so we can ask them.”

She says it has been a struggle keeping membership numbers up over the years.

“Membership numbers have grown over the years and dropped over the years and while our numbers maybe lower than what they have been in the past, you know the skills, and the talents, and the geographical reach is still there in Pacifica and we are probably under utilising that.”

This year’s theme was Akamoeau no te uki ki mua’ – Creating Peace for the Next Generation which focused on the prevention of family violence in Pacific families and communities and, processes and strategies to build or rebuild respectful and peaceful relationships.

Rheilli Uluilelata delivered her winning speech in the young women’s speech competition which was a highlight of the anniversary conference.

“I want to be able to wake up in the morning and know that I’m going to be treated equally. I want my future daughter to wake up in the morning and not even have to worry about gender equality,” she said in her speech.

“Yes, I’m a woman, biologically, a Samoan woman culturally, a strong minded woman psychologically and restricted on who I canor can not be because society has stigmatised.”

Rheilli is in her second year at University, and says the one thing she loves about Pacifica is that its a space where your voice can be heard.

“And for me to finally find out about it, I was just so glad to finally experience it and find a place I finally belonged.”

She says while PACIFICA has been around for a long time, it still has a lot to offer.

“Because it’s the kind of group where you do feel you finally belong and it’s a safe haven so you don’t need to be scared what to say which a lot of Polynesian women do.”

The next AGM of Pacifica will be hosted by the Napier-Hasting branch next year.

- Dateline Pacific