Sandra Kailahi

Sandra was born in New Zealand to a Tongan father and Kiwi mother. She has been a journalist for over two decades and has worked in mainstream and Pasifika media. The documentary, Tongan Women Talking about their Lives in Leadership is part of her master's research in which she was a co-participant.


Rev Setaita Tokilupe Kinahoe Veikune

Rev Setaita was born in Tonga. She is the first Tongan woman and Pacific woman to hold the role of Director of Pasifika Ministries for the New Zealand Methodist Church. In 2018 she will be ordained the President of the New Zealand Methodist Church, a position she will hold until 2020.


Director of Pasifika Ministeries of the NZ Methodist Church

Salote Heleta Lilo

Born in Tonga, Salote came to NZ in her early twenties.  She lived in Grey Lynn but then moved with her husband to Mangere where she still lives today. She got involved with a Tongan Trust in South Auckland and so began her community work.  She got a job in an office and then worked her way to become an Immigration Agent and runs her own business, Appraxus Immigration. She was the President of the NZ Tongan Gay and Lesbian association and has run the Miss Appraxus Tonga beauty pagent for well over a decade.

Community Leader and Business Woman

Jenny Latu Salesa

Jenny was born in Tonga but came to New Zealand for high school when she was 16. She is the current MP for Manukau East and a member of the NZ Labour Party. In 2017, Jenny was made a Cabinet Minister in the Labour led government. She is the Minister for Building and Construction, and Ethnic Communties. She is also the Associate Minister of Education, Health and Housing and Urban Development.  Jenny is a lawyer by profession.


Emeline Afeaki-Mafile'o

Emeline is a New Zealand born Tongan woman. She is a businesswoman and entrepreneur and started her youth mentoring company, Affirming Women now called Affirming Works when she was 25.  She runs Tupu'anga Coffee in Tonga with her husband Alipate and runs three social enterprises through 'Community Cafes in Mangere, Otahuhu and Mt Roskill in Auckland. She also holds many governance roles and her background is in social work.  Emeline is a Sir Peter Blake Leadership award recipient and the winner of the inaugural Woman of Influence award for Social Enterprise.


Sita Selupe

Sita was born in New Zealand to a Tongan father and a Niuean mother.  She is a primary school teacher and started her own homework centre in the garage of her South Auckland home.  Today she is the CEO of the Rise Up Academy, the first Pacific Charter School in New Zealand.  She is also a Sir Peter Blake Award recipient.

CEO of Rise Up Academy

'Alisi Tatafu

'Alisi is the youngest of the women interviewed for my master's research. She currently teaches at Mangere College and is heavily involved with her youth group, which is part of the Tongan Methodist Church in New Zealand. She was born in Tonga but came over to New Zealand as a young child. She is part of the organising committee for the Tongan stage at the ASB Polyfest and is heavily involved with the Tongan group, TOKO.

Secondary School Teacher & Youth Leader

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An important criterion for the participants was that the women were open not only to being interviewed but also being filmed with the purpose of producing a documentary.  The key determinants for selecting women were based on the following: age, New Zealand born or Tongan born, career, leadership position and location (based in Auckland)