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Lailanie Burnes And Samantha Power Promote Women and Girls’ Empowerment Through Sport
August 17, 2023

Nadi – Closing out a two-day visit to Fiji, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power participated in a rugby clinic with Coach Lailanie Burnes of the Lilian Amazon Rugby Club. After their scrimmage, Administrator Power and Coach Burnes held a dialogue before the press to highlight the importance of women’s empowerment and the value of women’s sports for elevating young women and girls across the Pacific community.

“I’m so impressed by Lailanie’s efforts to create more chances for girls and women to participate in sports,” said Administrator Power. “Sports can be transformative for young women—helping to create social networks, strengthen physical and mental health, connect young women with mentors, and more. As USAID boosts our investments here in the Pacific, advancing gender equality will be a key priority for us. Just like Lailanie is working hard to show everyone that women and girls do belong on the field—USAID is committed to working together to get women and girls the opportunities they deserve in every field.”

The U.S. Embassy has long connected with the Blue Pacific through our shared love of sports. Through sports, we can make strides toward gender equality, inclusive economic development, improved health outcomes, and youth development. In June 2022, the U.S. Embassy invited ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes to help combat non-communicable diseases and encourage healthy lifestyle choices. As a capstone, he ran 60 kilometers through the Namosi Highlands alongside schoolchildren, members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, and Fiji’s running community.

The United States recognizes the power of sport to guide people-centric development, as outlined in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. For example, in May 2023, the U.S. Embassy in Suva sent a group of Tongan and Fijian women civil society leaders to explore how sports can be used to address gender-based violence. Later this year, their American counterparts will travel to Fiji and Tonga to further the collaboration. These are just two of our shared initiatives, which demonstrate the breadth of engagement between the U.S. and Fiji. Fairness, inclusivity, and following rules of the game are inherent to any sport. These are also values that the U.S. and Fiji share as fellow Pacific nations, and principles that make for an equitable, prosperous, and healthy Blue Pacific.


For more information about Administrator Power’s activities in Fiji, please visit https://www.usaid.gov/administrator-power-travels-pacific-islands-aug-2023.

For more information about USAID/Pacific Islands, visit https://www.usaid.gov/pacific-islands or contact USAID Development Outreach Coordinator Sharon Kellman Yett at skellman@usaid.gov.