The International Women’s Day was celebrated to reflect on the achievements made by inspiring female leaders since Independence at an event hosted by the Australian High Commission at Warwick Le Lagon yesterday.

Each year, to celebrate International Women’s Day in Vanuatu, the Australian Government presents the Andy Lynch and Hanson Mataskelekele Awards to two Ni-Vanuatu women to recognise their contributions to women’s leadership in the community sector.

Late Andy Lynch was a strong advocate for equality and particularly for people living with disability. Late Hanson Mataskelekele was a teacher and former First Lady who advanced women’s rights and women’s leadership.

This year, an additional special award – the 40th Anniversary Gender Equality Advocate Award — was also presented to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Australia-Vanuatu bilateral relations.

Kelma Naupa Ishmael was awarded the 2020 Hanson Mataskelekele – Women in Leadership Award for her life-long commitment to community leadership.

Kelma played a role in Vanuatu’s road to independence serving as the secretary to the New Hebrides Cultural Association. More recently, Kelma has spearheaded the Erromango Cultural Association’s work to revive and promote the island’s culture and language.

Myriam Malao was awarded the 2020 Andy Lynch – Excellence in Community Award for her outstanding work within her community.

Myriam is well-known in Port Vila for her many community activities including founding the Market Restaurant Association to promote opportunities for her fellow market vendors.

She was also instrumental in the campaign to ban single use plastics and is a co-founder of environmental organisation, Green Wave Vanuatu.

The special 40th Anniversary Gender Equality Advocate Award was awarded to Merilyn Tahi for her lifetime of work to promote women’s rights in Vanuatu.

Merilyn was elected the first female municipal councillor in 1975. Since then Merilyn has been a tireless advocate for the elimination of violence against women and girls through her work establishing and leading the Vanuatu Women’s Centre.

“I congratulate all of the award winners today. You should all be proud of your achievements because we are all tremendously proud of you,” said Australian High Commissioner, Sarah de Zoeten.

The awards are funded by the Australian Government and are a joint initiative of the Lynch and Mataskelekele families and the Australian High Commission.

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on 8th March to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.