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New York state of mind: Trip to UN and Singapore awaits for PM award winner

Paridhi Bakshi

Inspirational Samoan youth hopes to turn international internship opportunities into a movement that eradicates poverty.

A 25-year-old Samoan-New Zealand is turning heads as an up-and-coming leader as she gears up to represent New Zealand at the United Nations in New York this March.

Latayvia Tualasea Tautai (Levi Salimoa/Solosolo/Amaile Aleipata) will be attending Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is a UN legislative committee that addresses issues centred around women's rights.

"This year’s theme for CSW is accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective."

And Latayvia has experienced some of the challenges of poverty herself, given she moved house "over 18 times" staying in friends’ garages, emergency housing, a women’s refuge and transitional housing.

"I grew up raised by a single mum on benefits and experienced housing insecurity and going in and out of women's refuge as a child," she says.

“However, the constant in my life has been my Nanny Talili Tautai’s house in Mangere East ... that is my safe space.”

For the same reasons, Latayvia is focused on working towards poverty eradication, particularly for Pacific families taking the hit from the cost of living.

"I am embarrassed that we have policies and mechanisms that allow for so many children to continue to experience poverty."

Over the last few years she has been an advocate and spokesperson for the “Mind the Gap”, a campaign that sought to close the gender and ethnic pay gap.

Latayvia also worked for a Pacific social service provider as a financial mentor and co-designed a financial literacy course with south Auckland high schools.

And she has been supporting the Y25 programme for the YWCA – which recognises local heroes across Aotearoa.

On top of that, she worked as a community partner with Auckland Council to encourage civic participation among Pacific youth and organised stationery drives across Auckland for wāhine in prison who were working to gain NCEA credits.

And in recognition of her work, last year she was named the Leadership and Inspiration winner at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA), which is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Air New Zealand.

As part of the award, she has also been offered a two-week internship in May in Singapore where she will learn about trade operations within the Pacific and Singapore.

"This award has allowed me to extend my platform to share my story and expand my worldview," she says.

"I will try to be a sponge and be ready to soak up all the information and knowledge that I can while I am there so I can bring that back and apply it to my work."

Latayvia is also passionate and vocal about anti-racism and women's empowerment, especially for Pacific people's access to financial literacy and wealth-building.

"People are getting comfortable with being outwardly racist."

And Latayvia hopes her time in New York can help her learn more about finding solutions to the issues underprivileged communities face.

"I'd like to be a part of a legacy that prioritises intergenerational healing and radical joy."

Hero Image: Latayvia Tualasea Tautai is heading to New York in March and Singapore in May. Photo/ Supplied

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