In her debut speech to the UN General Assembly last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that "It seems surprising that in this modern age we have to recommit ourselves to gender equality, but we do. And I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity."

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, #WeToo, comes from her speech: “Me Too must become We Too – we are all in this together.”

We are proud at VSA to have been working alongside women throughout the Pacific and beyond to achieve the goals that are important to them: an end to gender-based violence; more representation in politics; a voice in their communities; and good lives for themselves and their children.

Our volunteers support local projects that provide safety, good health, education, legal help and access to an income.

 Between July 2017 and June 2018, in addition to these programmes, VSA volunteers mentored or trained 3,100 women, including 217 women in leadership roles.

And we have spent all year marking the ways, big and small, We, Too, are all working together.

Bronwen Markham is on her second assignment in Bougainville – this time working as a Health Facility Management Mentor with the Department of Health, based at the Buin Health Centre. This week, she’s celebrating success at the Health Centre, which is led by Cecilia Naguo, the Executive Director.  Bronwen says, “This is a highly significant time for the Buin Community, with the arrival of two doctors on a two-week rotation here at Buin Health Centre. 

Buin Health Centre

L-R: Dr Stephanie Deklin, Dr Angela Pogla, Unit Manager Emelda, Student Nurse Fidelma and Ester

“Pictured above are Dr Stephanie Deklin, Dr Angela Pogla, Unit Manager Emelda, Student Nurse Fidelma and most importantly Ester, who survived an attack by a crocodile over a week ago now. 

“I’ve been working at Buin Health Centre for over five months and this scene brought tears to my eyes. The effort leading up to this has been extraordinary and complex and today we have good cause to celebrate and shed tears of joy. And – they’re all women!”

Bronwen and CeciliaBronwenCecilia

Bronwen and Cecilia

Bronwen works closely with Cecilia, and says, “Apart from being a highly skilled professional, Cecilia is a great person, mother, wife, grandmother, Aunty, and champion to her family. 

“Cecilia works full time at Buin Health Centre while juggling her other roles as she arranges funding for her teenage children to attend tertiary education, travels long distances to get to work and mentors her other younger children through life’s ups and downs. 
“She is remarkable, witty, funny, insightful and wise and I am privileged to know her and work alongside her.”

We are so privileged to work with Pawa Meri/Wāhine Toa like Cecilia all around our region. Want to read more?: