University of Fiji VC Pays Tribute to Trailblazing Dr. Meraia Taufa Vakatale

Dr. Meraia Taufa Vakatale hailed as an exceptional leader by University of Fiji Vice-Chancellor Professor Shaista Shameem, was laid to rest today at the age of 85.

Throughout her life, she achieved numerous groundbreaking milestones, leaving a lasting legacy in Fiji.

She broke barriers as Fiji’s first female Deputy Prime Minister, the first Fijian woman elected as a Cabinet Minister, and the first indigenous woman appointed as a Deputy High Commissioner. Additionally, she held the distinction of being the first Fijian woman to serve as a Secondary School Principal, receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, pass the New Zealand University Entrance Examination as the first indigenous Fijian girl, and be part of the inaugural class of students at Adi Cakobau School.

“Her sharp mind yet humble persona endeared her to the women and men of her generation and beyond,” Professor Shaista said.

Professor Shaista believes that current government leaders, especially those in the ministries where Vakatale made her mark, should adopt her leadership style.

“I had known Taufa since the early days of the YWCA, along with other farsighted women such as Amelia Rokotuivuna who has also sadly passed on. These great feminists of Fiji were my role models and mentors, and what I know of the power and influence of women in governance and education, as well as the commitment and duty to fight hard and relentlessly for the welfare of all the people irrespective of ethnicity or gender, I learnt from them,” she said.

Described as a towering figure respected by both women and men, Dr Vakatale will be fondly remembered by those striving to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in society. She believed in strengthening young minds and empowering them to forge their own paths in life through education, and encouraged free thinking among young women, enabling them to take resolute action for the greater good.

“I only wish there could be more like Taufa to give our young people, and indeed adults in our society, some hope for the future.”

Dr. Vakatale passed away on Saturday, June 24, and was laid to rest at the Lovonilase cemetery.

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