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Empowering Fijian communities through GEDSI: My journey with Tetra Tech International

Localisation: Ensuring sustainability and ownership 

My journey with the Australian Government and Tetra Tech has been a transformative experience, one that has enabled me to channel my passion for community empowerment into meaningful action in Fiji.   

My involvement in the gender space began when I was selected as the Ministry of Youth and Sports focal point for mainstreaming the national gender policy within the Fijian Government.  

When the prospect of joining the Fiji Program Support Facility (the Facility) arose, I knew it would be a unique opportunity to create positive impact and lasting change throughout local communities at an important stage in Fiji’s national development.   

This role has resonated with me, both personally and professionally. As a proud Fijian woman, my principle is simple: if I have been blessed with opportunities, it is only right to be a blessing unto others. This principle directly translates into my work at Tetra Tech.   

As the Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) and Safeguarding Coordinator with the Cyclone Recovery Program, I have been based in the Facility’s Labasa Office on Vanua Levu, in the Northern Division of Fiji.  

My work has included monitoring the obligations of contractors, ensuring they adhere to safeguarding policies. I have supported them in conducting refresher courses, work with mothers’ clubs, and monitor child protection in the nine schools being assisted through the Cyclone Recovery Program. 

Mere Ratukonadi onsite with contractors, as part of Fiji’s Cyclone Recovery Program.

Localisation is a crucial aspect of international development. At Tetra Tech, we consult with communities before starting any projects.   

In the Cyclone Recovery Program, we meet with schools and communities to understand their needs and expectations, to ensure sustainability and ownership of the projects by local people. It also allows us to tailor our GEDSI activities to the specific needs and cultural contexts of the communities we serve, leading to more effective and impactful outcomes.  

Localisation supports our GEDSI efforts. We engage community members who volunteer to be focal points and assist in monitoring. They also help keep an eye on what’s happening on the ground with regards to contractors’ obligations or issues related to child safety and protection.   

We have a reporting pathway specifically designed for the Cyclone Recovery Program, which involves our relationships within the community and the school committee. This localised approach ensures that our GEDSI initiatives are grounded in the realities of the communities we serve, leading to more meaningful and sustainable change.  

Mere Ratukonadi on the ground at a Cyclone Recovery Program work site.

Looking Ahead: Aspirations for the future 

Tetra Tech values and invests in its local team. I have been fortunate enough to have received invaluable mentoring and support, and opportunities for professional development, which has empowered me in my role, and in turn allowed me to support others, both in Tetra Tech and throughout the local communities we work with.  

Looking to the future, I hope to see more qualified Fijians take up leadership roles in international development. At the community level, I would love to seek more women, LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities are empowered to take up leadership positions and actively participate in all decision-making spaces.  

It’s vital for communities to take ownership of the programs that affect them, which then flows on to create lasting change. At the end of the day Tetra Tech’s long-term success is driven by the communities’ strong engagement and ownership post-project.  

I am excited about the future. My position with the Cyclone Recovery Program is coming to a close, and I’m taking on the role of Disaster Resilience and GEDSI Coordinator. This is another exciting opportunity, which will develop my skills and experience in this important area and allow me to create deep and transformative impact across local communities.  

Working with Tetra Tech has been an empowering experience, both personally and professionally. I look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.  

Through localisation and a strong focus on GEDSI, we can continue to make a difference in the communities we serve.  

Read more about Tetra Tech International’s work with the Fiji Program Support Facility.

MERE RATUKONADI

Disaster Resilience and GEDSI Coordinator 


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