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.