Cook Islands

The Australian Government, through Pacific Women, has committed approximately $3.9m over 10 years (2012–2022) on initiatives to support women’s empowerment in the Cook Islands.

There are two key documents providing information about the gender equality work in the Cook Islands:


(cumulative to June 2019 unless otherwise stated)

Community awareness and outreach

  • 65 aspiring women candidates from Rarotonga and remote Pa Enua participated in a parliament training through a project by the Gender Development Division, Ministry of Internal Affairs, partnering with UNDP.
  • 115 businesses, including 104 women, were mentored to manage and grow their businesses on Rarotonga and Pa Enua.
  • 2 women with disabilities successfully completed the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) STEP study program.
  • 5 women with disabilities received permanent employment opportunities.
  • More than 70 women leaders participated in the National Women’s Conference, which included 29 National Council of Women member women’s organisations.

Crisis support services

  • 1,152 clients received 5,007 sexual and reproductive health and rights services and products delivered in 2017 through Cook Islands Family Welfare Association, an affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation.
  • 3 dedicated family lawyers provided free support to women survivors of violence through Punanga Taturu Inc (PTI) in 2018.
  • 56 survivor clients benefitted from PTI’s referral mechanism from July–December 2018.
  • 10 women accessed PTI’s legal aid service to take legal action against their perpetrators from January–June 2018.


Economic Empowerment

  • Businesswomen, government and NGO representatives better understand the barriers and practical solutions available to overcome challenges for women in business, through support to the 2017 Women’s Business Forum. The Forum also enabled members of the Cook Island Business and Professional Women Association to display their products in a trade fair.

Ending Violence against Women

  • Enacted the Family Protection and Support Act 2017 supported through the Pacific Community (SPC) and its Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT).
  • Women survivors of violence are receiving specialist family law advice through support to PTI to open a legal aid centre. PTI operates the Punanga Taturu Women’s Counselling Centre and its legal aid service established in 2018. It assists women with legal advice, maintenance order applications, custody and protection matters. PTI is reporting increased collaboration among government stakeholders, complementing each other in the provision of services to clients.

Enhancing Agency

  • The government increased its capacity to generate sex-disaggregated data and to use gender statistics to guide national policy and decision-making, evaluation and learning and human rights reporting. This resulted from support to SPC’s Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific (PGEP).
  • Support through PGEP to conduct a national consultation during 2018 enabled the Gender Development Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to assess the impact of its Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy 2011–2016 and to help guide drafting of the country’s next national gender policy and strategic plan.
  • The Cook Islands Family Welfare Association continues to increase their outreach in schools and other community settings through working with partners like the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth and Te Kainga (a day care centre servicing elderly and mentally health clients).

Pacific Women partners in Country

Government of the Cook Islands: Cook Islands Police; Gender and Development Division, Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Cook Islands civil society partners: Punanga Tauturu Inc., Cook Islands Family Welfare Association

Other partners: Australian Department of the House of Representatives; International Planned Parenthood Federation (with local partner Cook Islands Family Welfare Association); the Pacific Community: Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific (PGEP) and the Regional Rights Resource Team; and Pacific Women’s regional partners.

Details on activities for each country, including those supported by the regional program, are available via the interactive map. The full list of program partners can be found here.

Stories of Change

A business forum for women in Cook Islands

To mark International Women’s Day 2017, Pacific Women support a two-day Women’s Business Forum in Cook Islands. The two-day event in Rarotonga attracted around 80 women from across Cook Islands including the outer islands of Aitutaki, Atiu and Mitiaro. The forum was designed to provide information to women interested in business and to showcase the successes of Cook Islands’ women entrepreneurs.


Using social media to share statistics on the prevalence of violence against women

Government and civil society in Cook Islands collaborated to organise a series of activities to mark the 16 Days of Activism in 2016. Funded under the Australian aid program’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative, the campaign was locally developed, led and implemented by the Cook Islands Ministry of Internal Affairs, Punanga Tauturu Inc., Ministry of Police, and the National Council of Women.


Cook Islands using Smart Infographs to Explain Gender Statistics

Quality statistics help everybody in a project cycle. However, data is only as good as our ability to understand, interpret and use the information that is presented. Through the PGEP program, Pacific Women is supporting work in the Cook Islands to improve the analysis and presentation of gender statistics, with the aim of making them accessible, interesting and ready for a wide range of uses.


Extending the Reach of Family Welfare Services

Walking uphill to the hospital in the tropical heat whilst heavily pregnant to access the ultrasound at the main hospital was not something that Cook Islander women looked forward to. However, IPPF has supported the CIFWA to provide women with better access to reproductive health services, including ultrasound, close to their communities.