PM defends Cook Islands’ gender record

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04th September, 2012

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna says his country isn’t doing too badly when it comes to gender equality (PHOTO ABC, 4 Sept 2012)

The Cook Islands’ Prime Minister Henry Puna has defended his country’s record on gender equality.

Pacific Beat’s Geraldine Coutts speaks to Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna about hosting the Pacific Islands Forum. Listen to the interview here.

At the Pacific Islands Forum held in the country last week the region received a pledged of $320 million over 10 years, from several countries including Australia, to promote greater gender equality in the region.

Host Cook Islands’ record has been under the microscope, with critics saying there’s not enough political motivation to make positive changes for women in the country.

Prime Minister Puna says his country isn’t doing so badly.

“If you’re looking at the proportion of women in parliament, yes we don’t look too good, but that is not in our view the only measure of progress on the gender issue,” he told Radio Australia.

“For example, at the last round of head of ministries appointments, six out of 10 appointees were women.

“That fact gives me a lot of pride that we are moving in the right direction.

Puna said local women had held discussions on creating a number of reserved seats in Parliament for women.
But, he points out, the women rejected it.

“They wanted to get where they want to go on their own merits. They acknowledged that they are under no impediment, no constraints, at least in our society, to become members of parliament.”

Henry Puna said Pacific leaders are still discussing how to spend the funding.

He said hosting the Pacific Islands Forum last week was “an awesome experience.”

“Not just for government, but also for our people. You should have seen the joy on their faces,” he said.

Puna said the locals coped well with added the security and inconvenience, despite some grumblings during pre-forum drills on the road.

“During the actual forum it was very pleasing to see how people just pull up without complaining and allowing the escorts to pass through.”

The overall cost of hosting the forum is still being worked out, but Puna said it will be less than $1 million because of cash and transport help from Australia, New Zealand and China.


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