Mereseini Vuniwaqa continues to grow in stature in the leadership stakes.
In her first 12 months after her reappointment as Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation following her 2018 General Election success, she has become a household name.
She has been going right down to the grassroots to listen to their challenges and address them. She has learned one good thing that all smart politicians do – be with the people.
In a recent community gathering near Suva she told the predominantly ITaukei participants that without charity, service means nothing.
She reveals that she has told the Ministry staff that degrees and qualifications are good. But without charity service is not complete.
In fact, she says it is in line with Government policies that everyone should be treated equally and fairly. No one is left behind.
That has been her underlying message as she moves from community to community and that kind of message is gaining traction in areas where Opposition parties like SODELPA gained significant inroads in the last election,
Charity means unconditional love equated to the Biblical meaning of the pure love of Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life that mankind may be saved.
Government policies, she explains, do not discriminate and want everyone to succeed. Help is given on the basis of need, not on race, culture or religion or sexual orientation.
She wants all of us especially men to join the crusade to eliminate abuse and violence against women and children.
For a small country like Fiji. our statistics are a shame and a national disgrace
She says 70 per cent of our women are getting mistreated in their own homes.
She says if we have charity we will abhor abuse and violence and they will stop.
She has also spoken out that we need to show charity in looking after our elderly parents and other seniors plus the physically and mentally challenged.
She disclosed that the three Government homes, in Lautoka, Samabula, Suva, and Labasa are full of our senior people who cannot be looked after in our own homes.
She says these are homes where both husband and wife have good jobs. Some of the elderly are dropped at the homes and forgotten. Yet they have children here. Where is our charity? Ms Vuniwaqa asks.
Mrs Vuniwaqa was the best choice for this ministry. Her experiences in her pre-political life taught her well and put her in good stead to handle the social problems her ministry deals with.
As a wife of a peacekeeper? She saw everything as she raised her young family. She saw families breaking up, divorces, alcoholism? Abuse and violence in the home. Her husband, Nemani Vuniwaqa, is now Director of Immigration. She learned to look after her children while her husband was away on long stints in the Middle East.
Those experiences helped build her character. As a lawyer and former civil servant, those early family experiences keep her humble and focused on her core role in the ministry,
She stresses the importance of women as the backbone of the family. So women must be loved and supported as nurturers.
Her message is simple. When the family is united and strong, our nation will become strong too.