Lotonui Iosefa and Sio Kihe La’a from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), share some background on the motivation to put together MPP’s first Women’s Network.


Why are you starting an MPP women’s network?

Pacific women’s voices are often left unheard and excluded from decision making tables. The aim of the network is to build the capability of the women within MPP, encourage and develop women into leadership roles and address the inequity we face as Pacific women. Women represent over 70 percent of staff at MPP, 15 percent of whom are in leadership roles. There is a vast pool of knowledge and experience that we want to tap into. Many of these women actively engage with external stakeholders across the Government, communities and private sectors and these relationships are key in influencing a system that has not always thought about the pacific journey when developing policy and legislation.

As a Pacific woman working in the public sector, what are some challenges you or others have faced, and what do you think would help address these issues?

The existing inequalities that exist for Pacific people are exacerbated for Pacific women. We want to show our children despite these challenges, we can always aspire to do great things. A career in the Public Service can be daunting so having a strong support system in place can make all the difference for our women. Lotonui and I started at the Ministry together and it was reassuring to have each other’s support. We hope the network can provide a form of mentorship for its members.

For Lotonui and I, respecting our parents motivates us in all aspects of life whether it’s work, social or family. As Pacific women we are their legacy, so it’s important that we role model the values we were brought up with. Working at the Ministry, we are encouraged to apply our language, culture, and pacific world views to influence our work.  It gives us a sense of collectiveness, fengaue’aki (working together) and alofa (love), knowing that we’re playing a role in supporting and helping our Pacific communities realise their full potential.

Many of us have a woman in our lives that have been one of our role models. Who is yours, and what did you learn from them?

It takes a village to raise a child and this is at the very essence of my Tongan upbringing around which values, cultural and religious beliefs are taught. A strong family is one where members can depend on each other, are treated well and where values are shared and respected. Just like a well-built fale Tonga, a strong family can weather even the greatest storm. In the Tongan culture, when a gift is bestowed it’s important that the receiver honour the gift. When serving our families and communities here in Aotearoa, they show us their hopes, aspirations, and dreams, which is a most precious gift. It is up to us as Pacific public servants to look after that gift and ensure their voices are represented in the system, so our community thrives - Sio Kihe La’a.

I was raised by a village of strong women who taught me how to lead with integrity and respect. My Grandmother taught me the importance of service. In Tuvaluan, fai tau tusaga mote alofa means to fulfil your duty with love. This is the foundation of my why; everything I do and hope to achieve is for my family and community. This foundation gives me the courage to speak up when our voices are drowned out by the waves of the system, the strength to push through adversity and the wisdom to seek the support of my community - Lotonui Iosefa.


Lotonui Iosefa and Sio Kihe La’a


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