In 1976, Béatrice Vernaudon, then a young social worker, was selected to serve as French Polynesia’s representative at a Pacific Community (SPC) meeting in Suva to determine the course curriculum for the organisation’s Education and Training Centre.
“That’s when I first developed political awareness by working alongside women committed to obtaining independence for their countries and by being criticized myself for the nuclear testing in French Polynesia,” she says.
By 1981, Ms Vernaudon was chairing the First Pacific Women’s Conference, which SPC held in Papeete, where she met many women who would play pioneering roles in their countries including Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea, Hilda Lini of Vanuatu, and Esiteri Kamikamica of Fiji.
Together they dreamed of a cohesive and mutually supportive Pacific islands region, where women and men developed their countries together, managed their families and educated their children, while respecting the environment and finding a balance between tradition and the modern world.
In 1982 Ms Vernaudon helped created the French Polynesian Women’s Council and served as its first Secretary General and in 1986 she took charge of the French Polynesian Social Services Office. From 1996 to 2001 she served as the French Polynesian Minister of Solidarity and Family, and in 2001 she was elected to the French Polynesian Assembly. From 2002 to 2007 she served as Member of Parliament in the French National Assembly in Paris. In 2008, she was elected Mayor of her home municipality of Pirae, close to Papeete.
In 2014, at the age of 60, she decided to leave politics and devote herself to her family and the farming operations that she had set up on the island of Taha’a.
Passionate about her profession and the harmonious development of her country, Béatrice showed the way to women at the very time when the French Constitution was making parity mandatory for all elected offices.
The 70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign has been produced by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with Australian Aid and Pacific Women. The campaign marks the 70th anniversary of SPC, and leads up to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women in Suva (Fiji) from 2nd to 5th October 2017.