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By KUINI VEREBASAGA WAQASAVOU

Da Nang, VIETNAM – December 3, 2022: 10am (Fiji Fisheries): Women are powerful agents of change.

And the far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity in leadership and decision-making are increasingly recognized in all spheres. Women as leaders and decision-makers at all levels are critical to advancing gender justice and gender equality—and to furthering economic and social progress for all.

Leading and operationalising the day to day activities of the Ministry of Fisheries is not an easy feat. It takes dedication, passion, commitment and a lot of sacrifice.

Meet Director of Fisheries

Today, we feature 46- year old Neomai Turaganivalu- Ravitu, who is the current Director of Fisheries. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from the University of the South Pacific (USP) and a Masters Degree in Fisheries Science at the Pukyong National University in Busan, South Korea.

“I was born and raised with my five siblings in Suva and was educated at Veiuto Primary and Suva Grammar School. As a daughter of working parents I was taught spiritual values and lessons that would prepare me for life,” she said.

“Growing up, I aspired to be a doctor but that dream never eventuated but instead, I chose the next best thing- a career in the field of fisheries.

“I joined the Ministry back in 1999 after graduating from USP on an attachment basis. In 2000, an opening for a Data Collector/Analyst position opened up where I applied and got the job.”

Ms Ravitu said that her first few months on the job was an eye opener and she found herself constantly challenged by her colleagues.

Loving her job, Fiji’s Fisheries Director Neomai Turaganivalu- Ravitu at the 19th Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Da Nang, Vietnam. Photo: Fiji Fisheries

“I learnt a lot in my early years with the experienced officers and they are lessons that I carry with me to this day,” she smiled.

Throughout the years, Ms Ravitu rose through the ranks from being a Data Collector to the Director of Fisheries.

“The positions include Fisheries Assistant, Fisheries Technical Officer, Fisheries Officer, Senior Fisheries Officer and Principal Fisheries Officer. I served in the Northern, Eastern and Western Divisions and have rotated around the Offshore Fisheries Management Division, Coastal Fisheries Division and the Research Division,” explained Ms Ravitu.

“The positions that I attained whilst moving up the ladder had its fair share of challenges and I had to quickly adapt and realign myself to what was required of the work.”

What is your role as Director?

As Director, Ms Ravitu basically has an overseer role, providing direction towards the formulation, implementation and monitoring of Fisheries regulation and policies.

“I also support and advocate for sustainability and the efficient and effective management as well as the protection of Fiji’s fisheries. In addition to this, which is most important is mobilizing the necessary resourcing and energy to support this work, whether this be from central government or through partnerships with NGOs, CSOs and with donors,” she stated.

“I am challenged every day but am also grateful for the huge support by the staff and executive office of the Ministry. Together, we try our level best to ensure that our legislations are fit for purpose. And that the programs that we implement across the three sub sectors of fisheries are meeting their objectives.”

“Together with divisional managers, we continue to drive and implement programs on the ground so that the people that we serve benefit from it. And we continue to strive towards improving fisheries science so that it speaks to the policy directions that needs to be undertaken,”  Ms. Ravitu added.

How does your work contribute to the development of fisheries in your country?

“On the development of fisheries this role looks to ensure that there is really a balance struck between the development of the resource and sustainability of the same, and this is achieved through addressing the imbalance between these two critical areas through robust policy guidelines and legislative provisions.

“Together we continue to voice our positions and progress in the many critical work spaces in both our coastal and oceanic fisheries spaces.”

One year and 3 months into the role, Ms Ravitu knows that a lot has to be done in order for her to call it a successful mission.

“I still have a lot of work to do to contribute towards the Ministry’s priority areas of growing the economy, ensuring sustainability of resources and ensuring that livelihoods are met.”

What is your advice for women who want to work in this field?

Ms Ravitu says recently, a trend has emerged in that more and more women are taking up leadership positions.

“It is evident in Fiji and around the world and this is indicative of a wind of change but not stated to undermine the huge contribution that our male counterparts have and continue to place in this space.

“But for women who endeavor to work in this field, my advice would be … go for it! We are evidentially already playing critical roles in this space and contribute immensely in ocean leadership, management and use, conservation and science both in our communities and through our fisheries economies,” added Ms. Ravitu.

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