Konrote’s life journey

Makereta Konrote (seated second from left) with members of the SALT Mentoring Group. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Makereta Konrote’s life journey so far is a story of fierce determination, breaking barriers, and transforming challenges into success.

From very humble beginnings to becoming the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Economy under the previous government, the Oinafa and Hapmafau, ‘Itu’tiu, Rotuma, lass is a good role model for young women and girls.

Ms Konrote is married and has a daughter. She was born in Tavua and began her primary education in the interior of Sigatoka (at Bemana and Mavua) and continued primary school in Nadi. Eventually, her family moved to Suva, where she attended high school.

Her parents were her greatest motivators while she was growing up and Ms Konrote shared about how their teachings moulded her into the woman she is today.

“They worked hard to afford us the opportunities they never had and instilled in my brothers and I the value of hard work and service to others,” she said.

“I could not have asked for a better role model in my mum. She modelled leadership qualities long before I learned them as concepts in leadership courses and is a huge part of who I am today.

“My mum taught me the importance of making good decisions. When I started high school, she would often remind me that the decisions I made – the relationships I chose, my attitude towards learning and how I invested my time would impact my life, so I needed to choose wisely.”

She said it was the best advice – the opportunity cost of choice was probably the reason she developed an interest in economics. Ms Konrote has an MA in Environmental and Resource Economics from the Australian National University and BA in Economics from the University of the South Pacific.

“I am also a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and have served on several boards of financial institutions in Fiji.

“I have had a long career in the Fijian civil service serving in different roles, mostly in the Ministry of Finance, formerly the ministry of economy. While in the service, I was posted to the World Bank in Washington DC as an adviser to the executive director of the Southeast Asia constituency that Fiji is part of.”

She left the civil service in 2021 after serving as permanent secretary from 2016.

“Since leaving the civil service, I have moved into the development consulting sector working as an independent consultant with the UN Women Fiji Multi Country Office on gender, disaster resilience and climate change.”

Just like any other successful individual, Ms Konrote has faced a lot of challenges along the way, and they have varied as she took on more senior roles.

“I noticed there were fewer women above me and as peers.

“Time away from family was a constant, but my family and husband were always supportive, and we made sacrifices together.

“There is a quote by Sonia Sotomayer that women ‘having it all’ – a career and family with no sacrifice to either is a myth.”

Ms Konrote said enduring gender inequalities in the Pacific remained a major challenge for women and girls reaching their full potential, as change agents, as equal partners, and beneficiaries of development and as leaders in the community.

“We have the highest rates of gender-based violence, the highest share of unpaid care work is borne by women and globally, we have the lowest levels of women in Parliament.

“We need to work at all levels to address harmful gender norms. Raising our children to respect and treat everyone equally is one of the surest ways to address the issue.

“Teaching especially our sons to interact with all people regardless of gender in a  positive and respectful manner is key to nurturing well-rounded and successful adults in the future.”

Ms Konrote said there was no substitute for hard work.

“Be courageous to pursue whatever it is you set your mind to. Adaptability and willingness to learn from, and work with others, is key to growing and developing the skills you need to thrive in any career path you want to pursue.

“Choose to always be positive. Choose to be uplifting of yourself and of other women and girls, remembering that often, the strongest and most influential voice is your own.

“Maybe you have made some not-so-good choices. That is not the end – it is never too late to rewrite your story. Having a mentor is especially important today. Someone to guide you, help you redirect your path and be there for you.”

She is currently a mentor alongside Ana Laqaretabua at SALT Mentoring Community.

“The SALT Mentoring Community is a group of like-minded, like-valued professional women. We come from diverse  backgrounds, both in the public and private sectors, but share a common passion for continuous learning and growth.

“As members, we have access to leadership training through mastermind studies, mentoring and coaching, accountability partnerships, networking opportunities and more.

“Being part of the group provided me with a strong support network as I transitioned to a new area of work, switching from a national to regional focus. Personally, the mentoring community has been transformational.”

Ms Konrote said she has profited from the group’s shared experiences and stories, their diverse skills and expertise, and leadership journeys, just as they have benefited from hers.

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