2013 Project – Balancing Leadership

PPSEAWA Cook Islands is taking the lead in preparation for the Cook Islands elections in 2014.

In June 2013, President, Alexis Wolfgramm, successfully applied for a Social Impact Fund grant to look at a way of addressing issues relating to women’s leadership in the Cook Islands and the election process.  A project has been developed that will use film technology and the skills of local men and women who are connected to a newly developed film industry following the success of FILM RARO.  Alexis explains what this project is all about….

Gender equity is a topic of great interest and much discourse in the Pacific. Translating gender equity theory into practice is the challenge in the Cook Islands as it is elsewhere. The promotion of women in positions of decision making and leadership are slow to translate in the Cook Islands, particularly at the parliamentary level, where women’s representation has never exceeded 12.5%.

This project is aimed at generating discussion, breaking down the election barriers that exist in our communities such as voter behaviours, religious influences, lack of campaigning skills, and the party pre-selection process. It is also aimed at assisting change in community attitudes. There is considerable advantage for communities in having women’s voices added to the political debates of our country and for women to advocate strongly for families, social development and justice, areas often overlooked or under-rated by the parliament in favour of asset building.

PPSEAWA CI is a well respected civil society organization with a proven history of accountability for project funds. The Executive Committee of PPSEAWA CI are women with strong links to community, government and the private sector with backgrounds in education, health, justice, business, environment and extensive project management experience. This project has been designed by the Executive Committee and Gender Council of PPSEAWA as a proactive response to the issue of women’s low representation at the political level in the Cook Islands. The project is non-partisan.

PPSEAWA through the current President also has strong links with Drum Productions and All Media Pacific. It is through this connection that the partnership to support women in film-making has been forged.

In March 2013, Drum Productions CI ran a Film Makers training course in Rarotonga. While other community groups and new film makers also benefitted from the training course, there was a strong representation of women trainees who were later to become involved in creating films that will be shown on the world stage at international film festivals. This opportunity came about through their selection by Drum Productions Cook Islands, following on from their initial training,  to be part of the crew of one of several filming projects that Drum CI engaged for the Cook Islands as part of FILM RARO.  Since this experience, several trainees have now been recruited through PPSEAWA CI to continue to be mentored and supported and are receiving hands on technical support and access to Drum’s equipment, resources and extensive media networks.

Film Raro - Dog Save the Queen, Avatiu Wharf

Film Raro – Dog Save the Queen, Avatiu Wharf

It is this leverage that will also assist the women trainees into further opportunities for working on small, medium and up to large scale projects in the Cook Islands and off-shore to gain more experience and skills. During this project, the women trainees will be mentored to produce the commercials and short films.

This project will:

1. Develop a user friendly hand-book for women candidates who may be interested in entering politics and standing for election. The handbook will set out the processes and include the sample documentation templates that are required for both independents and for party pre-selection. It will describe a brief history of women in the Cook Islands parliament and the roles they fulfilled. It will also include information about campaigning and successful strategies that have been used by candidates.

2. Run a workshop on campaign strategy for women candidates prior to the next election. To make the workshop accessible for women in the outer islands, a telecommunications link will be established to women outside of Rarotonga who wish to participate.

3. Capture the workshop on film and, together with other supporting material, create a community education reference tool (short film) for future candidates that can accompany the handbook.

4. Produce three non-party commercials that will be aired on local television that highlight the attributes of women as community leaders.

5. Encourage voters to change negative historical behaviours (voting without thinking, following the family history, voting out of obligation) by producing audio visual materials for distribution and airing on local television. Three commercials will be produced prior to the next election to be aired locally.

6. Give women trainee film-makers opportunities to gain further practical experience in creating the commercials and short film in this project, utilising the training they are undergoing now and adding to the marketable skills for future employment in the film industry. These trainees will also be supported to take up a practical opportunity to work with international film makers as crew for one week in May 2013, working on two short films addressing domestic violence.


The use of both audiovisual and print material to highlight the importance of women and the attributes that women bring to debate is expected to be a valuable tool in the lead-up to the Cook Islands general elections in 2014. Assisting women to reach aspirations to enter politics and represent their communities is where the project will have the most impact.

PPSEAWA CI has maintained a gender council as one of its key areas of interest for more than ten years. The council has been proactive in research, contributing to public policy, raising public awareness about gender issues and community education projects

PPSEAWA CI has considerable experience in managing projects with other civil society organizations. This will be a new initiative for PPSEAWA CI in managing a project that brings in a private sector company as mentor and technical expert.

PPSEAWA has previously produced a short film (20 minutes) about virtues for living aimed at children and families and also created and run advertising on child literacy for both television and radio.

PPSEAWA CI has also carried out research on gender issues in the Cook Islands, developed policy and assisted government and civil society towards compliance with the CEDAW convention and the Millenium Development Goals.

PPSEAWA CI’s research and model for maternity leave has now been adopted into the Cook Islands Employment Relations legislation in December 2012. PPSEAWA CI is the only women’s group in the Cook Islands with researched and member-activated policy on Special Temporary Measures


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