It was not until well into our deliberations over the Islands Business Pacific Person of the Year that a definite theme emerged: the representation of powerful Pacific women in our final list.

This year we couldn’t separate two people, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Fiji policewoman and now Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, Unaisi Vuniwaqa. Together they are our Pacific People of the Year.

Fiame impressed for her conduct during Samoa’s prolonged election controversy and the hope she represents for many Samoans.

Meanwhile Unaisi Vuniwaqa continues her climb through the upper echelons of the United Nations after hitting the glass ceiling in the Fiji police force. Her willingness to start from the bottom as a peacekeeper, and work her way up despite previously having held a senior position in Fiji, is a lesson in humility and determination for us all.

Honourable mentions this year include the Fijiana Sevens team for their electrifying performances at the Tokyo Olympics and more recently, in Dubai, and the inspiration they are providing for athletes across the region.

The Fijiana Sevens team

And in a year where the COP26 climate talks disappointed, the Pacific’s young climate advocates working on the global stage and at quietly at home gave us hope. We profile a handful in this issue, although they represent a  much broader community of young men and women working to ensure their voices are heard and future is secured.

Illustration: Naiqama Lalabalavu

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