Cook Islands’ snap election left women candidates behind

Australia Network News

Updated Thu 15 May 2014, 2:21pm AEST

A regional women’s organisation says the hurried timing of the elections in Cook Islands has left potential women candidates behind.

Last month, Prime Minister Henry Puna called a snap election amid opposition claims he was to lose a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Cook Islanders will go to the polls on July 9 and registrations have now closed.

Alexis Wolfgramm from the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association says the rush has meant women candidates have had to withdraw.

“With the rush and the uncertainty for some of our prospective candidates they felt the timing wasn’t good,” Ms Wolfgramm told Pacific Beat.

“(The felt) they didn’t have enough time to prepare their constituency committees and their campaign and so they withdrew.”

There are 24 seats in the Cook Islands Parliament and Ms Wolfgramm says the association was hoping to have at least 10 women candidates lined up.

Only 6 have been put forward for July’s election.

“We’re quite disappointed that the governing party, the Cook Islands Party, has fielded one woman candidate against a very, very strong democrat and a very safe democrat seat, and she is the only candidate that they have fielded at all.”

Ms Wolfgramm says the rush has also meant familiar candidates have been nominated.

“Parties have also, I don’t think, spent quality time on looking at their field of candidates and they have once again proposed many of the same faces.”

She says it will be “same old, same old” with the governing party but it’s less clear with the opposition Democratic Party.

“There may be some new faces in the parliament but there will certainly be the same faces in cabinet.”



PPSEAWA promotes balancing leadership in GISWatch2013


The Cook Islands features in the Global Information Society Watch 2013 which was recently launched at the Internet Governance Forum in Bali last week.

An article, encompassing women’s rights, gender and ICTs in the Cook Islands, was the collaborative work of Maureen Hilyard, Lynnsay Rongokea and Alexis Wolfgramm.

The Cook Islands country report features alongside those of Argentina, Canada, China, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, South Korea and the Netherlands.

The 2013 edition of GISWatch examines how the internet and other ICTs have extended the public sphere and created new opportunities and freedoms for women. It highlights the threats to these freedoms and explores the role of technology in resistance to these threats.

The article looks at balancing leadership at government level in the Cook Islands.  It details a strategic campaign proposed by a local women’s group, the Pan Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA).

Their plan is two-fold: firstly, to challenge the gender imbalances in politics in the Cook Islands and to encourage women to stand for Parliament; and secondly, to encourage all eligible voters to vote at the next election – not according to traditional practices within the family or the community, but through educated and informed  choice.

The Cook Islands is not new to women in political leadership roles, but over the years political party mechanisms have not encouraged women to put themselves forward for the top decision-making posts in the country. That is, until very recently. And it has been the Opposition Democratic Party that has led this initiative.

Quota systems have been proposed overseas to encourage stronger women’s representation at government level. This has been encouraged by governments in different ways.

Voluntary quotas are practised by countries like Sweden where 45% of their Parliament are women. At the same time, Ireland has threatened to halve state funding to parties that do not include a minimum of 30% of women  as electoral candidates.

The Pacific has among the lowest women’s representation in Parliaments, despite their governments’ commitments to gender equality in CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals, and regional commitments to the Pacific Platform for Action.

PPSEAWA aims to use ICT and film technology to promote women’s “political awareness” with a special focus on women in the outer islands. PPSEAWA also aims to lobby for equality principles to be practised by political parties at all stages of candidate selection.


PPSEAWA Honours Paddy Walker

Paddy celebrating her award with Mousie Skews, Alexis Wolfgramm and Miriama Lima.

Paddy celebrating her award with Mousie Skews, Alexis Wolfgramm and Miriama Lima.

At the recent Triennial PPSEAWA International Conference held in Fiji, Paddy Walker was honoured by her PPSEAWA colleagues. The award states “In appreciation of your dedication and commitment to promoting peace to PPSEAWA”.

Because Paddy was unable to attend the conference, Miriama Lima, a representative from PPSEAWA Samoa personally presented the Paddy with the award and passed on the greetings of the President and other PPSEAWA members from the conference.

The  event was celebrated over a glass of bubbles with the PPSEAWA Cook Islands President, Alexis Wolfgramm, and PPSEAWA member Mousie Skews who reminisced with Paddy about her connections with PPSEAWA over the past 50 years.  Paddy’s is an honour well deserved.

PPSEAWA participates in Social Media Workshop

The Cook Islands Internet Action Group organised a social media workshop (October 2-4, 2013) at the Rarotonga Campus of USP, to help NGOs learn about and create a social media site. While some focused on a Facebook page, others developed a WordPress blog site (like this one).  The advantage of the WordPress site for an NGO is that it provides a free template on which to upload information, and also a free hosting service so that we don’t have to worry about weekly hosting payments.  Don’t forget to LIKE our Facebook Page

You can also access our Facebook page by clicking on the Peace Bird icon in the right hand column.

Alexis honing her Facebook and Blogging skills

Alexis honing her Facebook and Blogging skills