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Nuku’alofa – November 23, 2021: 10.45am (uncdf.org/Pasifika Weekly): As the UN Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF) first country coordinator in Tonga, Malieta Inoke is excited to be serving as an international civil servant in her home country.

Ms. Inoke joined the UNCDF in May this year and saw her new role as not only a “fresh challenge,” but an opportunity to empower all Tongans.

“I aspire to use education and financial literacy to empower women and youth get themselves out of poverty and to enhance the standard of living in the Pacific Islands,” the 32-year-old said.

Ms. Inoke will be coordinating UNCDF activities in Tonga under the Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP), which is jointly administered with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

She will also be working on a new European Union-funded programme titled ‘Leveraging digital finance to increase the resilience of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.’

She comes from an accounting, commerce, and information systems background and also briefly taught computer studies to Year 12 and 13 students early in her career.

Before joining the UNCDF, Ms Inoke spent five years at the National Reserve Bank of Tonga from 2013-2018, in two positions, one within the financial markets and exchange control division and the other with the Bank’s financial inclusion division.

In 2019, Ms. Inoke won a prestigious Australian Awards Scholarship to study a Master’s in Professional Accounting at the Australian National University in Canberra, fully funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Australia is also a key donor of UNCDF programmes in the region and has long been a key development partner to Pacific governments. Many Pacific Island leaders have studied through the Australian Awards programme.

In Canberra, Ms Inoke joined the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), which was the most enriching part of the experience and shaped her views on development.

It made her more passionate about supporting marginalized groups, such as women and youth, as well as promoting MSME-driven growth.

During the programme, Ms Inoke was paired with Rebecca Worner, the senior adviser to the then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke.

“I think the Women’s Leadership Initiative was the turning point in my career,” she said.

“You don’t need a designation, position or a title to influence those around you. If you believe in yourself and stand for what you believe in, you automatically influence those around you.”

Besides accounting and finance, Ms Inoke is also an avid reader of novels and has future political aspirations.

In fact, her love for reading helped her enter the financial inclusion space.

“The reserve bank’s Deputy Governor noticed my interest in reading. She told me that there would be a lot of materials to read in the financial inclusion division, and I haven’t looked back ever since.”

The UNCDF has already begun the foundational work on new programmes to be implemented in Tonga and the region, with the broad aim of fostering inclusive digital economies.

The new initiatives will connect individuals, households, and small businesses with the formal financial system to promote economic growth and reduce poverty.

With support from Australia and the EU, UNCDF aims to achieve key policy reforms that support digital transformation and the development of financial services tailored to the specific needs of Pacific Islanders.

Ms Inoke is familiar with this work through her time with the Reserve Bank of Tonga’s financial inclusion division and the UNCDF’s flagship Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, which ended in June 2021.

“I’ve realized that my purpose in life is to take the road less travelled, set an example and hopefully inspire my fellow country women and men to chart a course for a more glorious and prosperous Tonga,” she added.

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