Samoa woman leader receives Star of Oceania Award

Vaimasenu'u Zita Martel

Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel

HAWAII: THURSDAY 05 DECEMBER 2013: Samoan woman leader, mother, diplomat and well known longboat skipper Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel is one of the recipients of the 2013 Star of Oceania Award recognizing her courage and leadership in a special function at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki.

Vaimasenu’u shares the honour with 7 other distinguished Hawaii and Pacific recipients and presented by the Pacific Business Centre of the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu.

Zita has also been asked to perform the taualuga during the award ceremony, as the only Samoan honouree.

She will return to Apia on Saturday morning at 6.00am to a great Faleolo airport welcome organized by her staff, family and friends.

A press statement from the University of Hawai‘i says the University’s Pacific Business Center Program’s planning committee announced that eight women of and from Oceania will be honored at the third “Stars of Oceania” recognition dinner December 3, 2013 at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  The keynote speaker for event is Deputy Director Esther Kia’aina of the Hawaii State Government Department of Land and Natural Resources. Ms. Kia’aina is also a presidential appointee currently in the confirmation process in Washington D.C. as Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawaii president and CEO, will be the master of ceremonies for the evening. Reverend Dr. Fran Palama will chant the oli to commence the evening and the UH ROTC will present and retire the colors for the event.

“Primarily we wanted to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Pacific Islanders and residents not born and raised as such, but whose heart and service is testimony to their love for the islands they call home.  Their impacts are felt in and from Hawai‘i as well as other parts of the Pacific, the nation and the world. Each represents multiple dimensions of leadership to overcome challenges with Aloha, courage, faith and perseverance in their fields of endeavor,” stated UH Pacific Business Center Program Director, Dr. Tusi Avegalio, the primary organizer of the event.  These women inspire us to look forward to the flowering of a vision where everyone is a Star of Oceania and committed part of the vast constellation of hope, faith, courage and Aloha that will restore alignment, balance and harmony to a world so lacking in it.

The “Stars of Oceania” was inaugurated in 2006 with the intent to continue every three to four years. This year’s recognition dinner is not an award or reward ceremony for distinguished service, but to recognize and acknowledge these outstanding women for doing the right thing.  All have been rewarded and awarded on many occasions and deservedly so. The “Stars of Oceania” recognizes that the attributes of service and sacrifice to raise the common good is much like Aloha, not an attribute of a particular culture, ethnicity nor geographical boundary. The event honors one’s sense of humanity.
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2013 Honorees

1.  Dr. Sela Panapasa                      Rotuma, Fiji
Health Leadership. Conducting research, analysis and reporting from the University of Michigan that is impacting the Pacific region and the U.S. regarding elderly care and policy development for health and nutrition for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

2. Dr. Diane Ragone                        Virginia
Humanitarian Leadership. Director of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens Breadfruit Institute. Her work on breadfruit to feed the hungry of the world has impacted disaster stricken areas in the Caribbean and Africa where mass planting of trees from Hawai‘i have fed hundreds of thousands over the decade.

3. Dr. Tin Myaing Thein       Myanmar
Compassionate Leadership. Executive Director of the Pacific Gateway Center where she leads programs that help refugees, the destitute and victims of human trafficking where many of the victims are young girls and women. Although her work often places her in at risk situations, she continues to help locals as well as immigrants from the Pacific and Asia with social and economic adjustment needs.

4. Beadie Kanahele Dawson         Hawaii
Community Leadership. Community activist, attorney, business woman and entrepreneur who stood bold and resolute in the protection of a legacy of promise by Ke Alii Pauahi Bishop for Native Hawaiians, her knowledge, wisdom and Aloha secured the legacy for her people for generations to come. She leaves behind a legacy of courage, cultural stewardship and economic development initiatives that seek balance between traditional wisdom and modern knowledge.

5. Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel           Samoa
Courage Leadership. Mother, diplomat, traditional leader and fautasi long boat skipper, successful business woman and entrepreneur. Overcame tremendous challenges and shattered the gender barrier by entering a traditional, men’s only long boat race as the first women ever to do so, and winning the 50th anniversary celebration fautasi race of her country. Her acceptance of victory with traditional respect, humility and salutations to the chiefs and spiritual leaders of her country endeared her as a standard of excellence for the youth of her developing island nation.

6.  Susan O’Connor               Montana
Spiritual leadership. Social and global activist for world peace and harmony. Facilitated national and international gatherings in Hawai‘i, established programs to support the social, economic and spiritual needs for native Hawaiians in Hana and built a retreat area as a portal for peace and harmony with Aloha and Hawaiian values at the core to all who seek a peaceful place for reflection, balance and harmony in life.

7. Dr. Takiora Ingram                       Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Regional leadership. Regional environmental leader, Coordinator of the Pacific Regional Ocean Partnership, promoting health and stewardship of the Pacific Ocean’s resources,  and former Executive Director of the All Islands Coral Reef Committee Secretariat based in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.  Provides effective leadership and coordination of the U.S. Pacific Islands and the Federal government to sustainably manage ocean resources and promote stewardship of the Pacific Ocean.

8.  Angela Williams             Virginia
Empowering Leadership. Retired U.S. Department of the Interior senior policy analyst who established the Pacific Business Center Program and a high impact internship program that has made significant contributions to local capacity building, and economic and small business development throughout the U.S. Territories, particularly Micronesia.  Graduates are serving in leadership positions throughout the U.S. Territories in the Pacific as vital building blocks for developing U.S. island Territories in the region.

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