Sionlelei, First Fijian To Carry The Commonwealth Mace For Celebrations
Sionlelei Mario became the first Fijian to carry the Commonwealth Mace for the Commonwealth Day celebrations.
The celebrations took place at London’s Westminster Abbey in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, His Royal Highness Prince Harry and other members of the Royal Family.
Other dignitaries included the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Malta Dr Joseph Muscat as well as the Fijian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Jitoko Tikolevu.
The Commonwealth Day celebration service is Britain’s largest annual interfaith gathering and was broadcast live to the country on the BBC network.
The Commonwealth is made up of 52 countries with a combined population of 2.5 billion people.
The theme for this year was peace building with a large focus on youth development, reaffirming the Commonwealth charter principle that ‘international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all’.
To hold the Commonwealth Mace is an extremely high honour and it is only used on special Commonwealth occasions, including the Commonwealth Day celebrations and at biennial heads of Government meetings.
The Commonwealth Mace was a gift of the Royal Anniversary Trust to The Queen in her role as head of the Commonwealth.
Ms Mario was chosen to carry the Commonwealth Mace because of her role as the only young professional from the Small Island States of the Pacific in the Commonwealth Secretariat.
She was born and raised in Suva and moved to London to take up a role with the Commonwealth Secretariat one-and-a-half years ago.
Her field of expertise is in human rights and democracy and works on programmes to help facilitate the promotion of leadership skills and empowerment of young people in the Commonwealth.
She is also an advocate for gender equality and esbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) rights.
Ms Mario hopes to be an inspiration for all young people in the Pacific, particularly young women that through hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
She added: “When I was a young girl schooling at St Joseph’s, I never thought I would one day be working in London and carrying the Commonwealth Mace for the Queen of England.
“Being a Fijian of Rotuman descent and coming from humble beginnings, I want to show all the youth of Fiji that anything is possible.
“From riding the school bus from Nabua to walking down the aisle at Westminster Abbey, it’s been one big awesome adventure
“I would like to thank all the people I’ve met along the way who have influenced and shaped me into the person I am now.
“They have all played a part in getting me to where I am today!”
Source: Fiji High Commission London