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6.5.3 Health, Environment and Social Issues

As a signatory to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Government of the Cook Islands is committed to a number of goals including :

To achieve universal access to quality education, with particular priority being given to primary and technical education and job training

To promote non-formal education for young people

To promote greater responsibility and awareness on the interrelationships between population and sustainable development; health issues, including reproductive health; and gender equity.

Ensuring equal access to education

Improving women’s access to vocational training, science and technology and continuing education;

Developing non-discriminatory education and training

The significant progress being made towards these goals is reflected in the education, training and public awareness programs conducted by the ministries and non-government organisations that work towards social progress in the Cook Islands. Population Education In Schools

The Population Education In Schools project aimed to develop in Cook Islanders an awareness and understanding of population and family life issues for the improvement of their quality of life while maintaining the environmental, cultural and traditional heritage. The project sought to integrate population and family health issues into the Social Science and Health programs. UNFP funding of about $NZ 34, 000 has been received since the start of the project in 1996.

A new integrated Social Science syllabus has been completed and distributed in Maori and English and all planned workshops on Rarotonga and in the Outer Islands have been conducted. A primary Health syllabus and Teachers Guide has also been written and distributed in Maori. Sample units for the proposed secondary school Family Life Education program were produced on topics such as Pregnancy, Abortion, Adoption, Transmitted Diseases, Physical and Emotional Development, Goal Setting, and Family Responsibilities. Some units were trialed but the loss of key Curriculum Unit staff in 1996-1997 resulted in the project losing its momentum and little progress has been made since that time.

Source : Pare Maui, Social Science Curriculum Adviser, Ministry of Education, July 1999 The Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health has 3 units that contribute to the development of essential skills. Health messages are conveyed to the target audience through school and clinic visits, workshops, competitions, posters, radio, television and newspapers.

The Public Health Nursing Unit supports and coordinates health activities with teachers, parents and the community and promotes birth control with particular emphasis on reducing teenage pregnancy.

The Nutrition Unit has, for several years, promoted to school children and the general public, various aspects of healthy living including Food and Sports, Heart Disease, Lifestyle Diseases, Nutrition Guidelines, the Healthy Food Pyramid and Healthy School Lunches.

The Health Education Unit was established in 1989 and has conducted lectures and organised essay, poem and poster competitions to promote awareness and knowledge of health issues. Such issues include Alcohol, Smoking, HIV/AIDS/STD, Family Planning, Dengue Fever, Lifestyle Diseases, Teenage Pregnancy, Feelings and Behaviour, Reproductive Health, Menstruation and Healthy Islands. The Healthy Island project is a recent initiative to promote health awareness in schools.

Source : Dr Teariki Tamarua, Secretary of Health, June 1999 Red Cross

The Cook Islands Red Cross Inc has 2 full time staff and a core annual budget of about $NZ 42, 000 which is funded by the New Zealand Red Cross. There are branches on all inhabited Southern Group islands and the first Northern Group branch is expected to be opened in late 1999. Red Cross provides educational and training programs in :

Safety and First Aid

Disaster Preparedness and Relief

Blood Donor Recruitment

International Humanitarian Law

Safety and First Aid

Red Cross delivers 6 different first aid courses and since 1995 has trained over 3, 000 people or the equivalent to 18 % of the 1998 resident population. Training has been provided to all sectors of the community including schools, non-government organisations, Ministries and the commercial sector. Positive responses to course evaluations and anecdotal evidence of trainees applying acquired skills in real situations indicate that the training is having its desired effect.

In 1999 a Swimming and Water Safety Program was introduced to schools on Rarotonga. To date, one primary school and one high school have successfully completed the program. Training for Trainers in First Aid and Community Based Self Reliance is planned for 14 outer island participants and a Road Safety campaign is in the planning stage.

Disaster Preparedness and Relief

Red Cross works closely with the National Disaster Management Office to educate the public on what to do before, during and after a disaster. Child Welfare Clinics are commonly used venues for conveying this information.

Blood Donor Recruitment

Associated with its drive to recruit blood donors, the Red Cross raises public awareness on related issues such as "drink-driving", "inter-period bleeding", hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

International Humanitarian Law

Red Cross incorporates aspects of humanitarian law into all its training programs and in August 1999 ran a seminar on the Geneva Convention which was attended by over 40 people and received wide media exposure.

Source : Niki Rattle, Secretary General, Cook Islands Red Cross Inc, August 1999 Ministry of Internal Affairs

Women’s Division

All programs operated by the Women’s Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are guided by the Government endorsed Cook Islands National Policy for Women. The policy focuses on :

Economic Empowerment

Social Development Issues

Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

Leadership and Decision Making

Natural Resources and Environment

Economic Empowerment

The Women’s Division has worked towards improving the income generation capacity of women throughout the Cook Islands by developing Handicraft Pricing Policy Guidelines and conducting workshops on credit and revolving fund schemes, and handicraft production and selling methods. The program will be complemented by training delivered by the Small Business Enterprise Centre, with financial assistance from NZODA.

Social Development Issues

The Women’s Division, with the support of the Ministry of Health, has provided training programs on heart disease, diabetes, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, oral health and parental skills. In 1998, the Women’s Division, assisted by UNFPA, held a Women’s Health Awareness Week to educate women on the importance of regular breast and PAP Smear examinations.

Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

The Women’s Division has conducted gender and development training programs for men and women at the local and national level and have identified and trained specific Gender and Development Focal persons in line Ministries and NGOs. This program has been supported by the Forum Secretariat, UNFPA, UNIFEM and NZODA.

The Division has also promoted the awareness and understanding of International Laws and Conventions relating to Human Rights issues, the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Leadership and Decision Making

With financial and technical assistance from UNIFEM and NZODA, training programs on Good Governance and Transformative Leadership were conducted for men and women in the Southern Group. Special training was also provided for all the women candidates who contested the recently held general election.

Natural Resources and Environment

Environmental issues were incorporated into other educational workshops for women which were conducted on Rarotonga and the outer islands in collaboration with the Environment Service, the Taporoporo Ipukarea Society and the Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program (REAP).

Youth Division

Development of a National Policy for Youth is in progress with funding being provided by the Commonwealth Youth Project (Commonwealth Secretariat). The Division currently runs 4 programs involving youth education and training.

Cook Islands Youth Empowerment Project

This project provides funding awards ($NZ 500 each) for 10 youths (aged 16 – 24) to pursue training for personal or career development skills. Awards of up to $NZ 1, 000 are also available for youth organisations to conduct educational workshops. The project runs on a 4 quarterly basis per year.

Commonwealth Youth Program

This program provides opportunities for youths to gain academic qualifications (diploma and degree level) in youth work and sociology. The training has been usually carried out in the Solomon Islands but this year, training is now offered through the University of the South Pacific Extension Program.

Sir Michael Somare Awards

This program provides awards ($NZ 1,000 each) for one male and one female to continue their education either locally or overseas. There are also awards ($NZ 2, 000 each) for one outer island organisation and one Rarotonga organisation.

Te Orama Puapinga o te Uki Ou Workshop

This UNESCO funded workshop was facilitated by the youth representatives who attended the South Pacific Youth Forum in Australia. The training program focused on Youth Problems such as teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and sexually transmitted diseases.

Source : Neti Tamarua Herman, Director for Women, Youth and Sports, Ministry of Internal Affairs, August 1999 Punanga Tauturu

The Punanga Tauturu Incorporated (Cook Islands Women’s Counselling Centre) was incorporated in 1994 to provide counselling for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Centre has since extended its programme to include Legal Literacy and Human Rights education at the community level and dissemination of materials and information on rights through the media and workshops. The Centre has been funded by the Asia Foundation, Canada Fund, NZODA and the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team (Fiji). To date the Centre has completed the following basic education activities :

Conducted Legal Literacy workshops on Rarotonga and in the Outer Islands

Coordinated, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNICEF, the National Forum on the Convention of the Rights of Children

Provided, in collaboration with the Ministries of Justice and Police, training workshops for Justices of the Peace and police personnel

Completed a series of 10 family law pamphlets covering marriage, separation, divorce, defacto relationships, affiliation, maintenance for women and children, custody and access, and matrimonial property.

Conducted, in collaboration with the Electoral Office, introduction workshops on voters rights and responsibilities and the electoral process

Conducted Counselling workshops

Source : Punanga Tauturu Incorporated Fact Sheet, Rongo File, August 1999 Social Responsibility Law Related Education Programme

The Law Related Education Programme is implemented by the Police Department to encourage young people to take responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing and that of others in their community. Programme objectives include reducing crime and traffic accidents involving young people and improving the communication and decision-making skills of young people and enabling them to take a more responsible role in society. The four strategic themes of the programme are :

1. Crime Prevention and Social Responsibility – to enhance young people’s perceptions of social responsibility and to foster partnership with the police in crime prevention initiatives.

2. Drug Abuse Resistance Education – to enable young people to avoid illegal drugs, to make sensible choices about the use of alcohol and other drugs and to seek help when required.

3. School Road Safety Education – to enable young people to learn skills needed to act safely and confidently on roads and other places associated with traffic.

4. Violence Prevention – to enable young people to develop non-violent relationships and to learn skills needed to manage situations where the risk of violence is evident.

The planned performance measures for 1999/2000 awareness programmes are :

Media promotions : TV 48, Radio 6, Newspaper 52, Brochures 1200

School Visits, 60

Youth Group and NGO workshops, minimum of 8

Consultations with other agencies, minimum of 50

Home Visits, 104

Source : Jane Tuavera, Community Policing Coordinator, Cook Islands Police, August 1999 Religious and Community Groups

Religion is an integral part of Cook Islands’ culture and society. Many churches of different Christian denominations are located on each island and also in each major village. In the 1996 Census, 94% of the resident population claimed an affiliation to a Christian denomination. The churches play a major role in promoting personal spiritual, emotional, mental and physical development thereby assisting people to become valued members of the community. Churches provide formal education for about 12 % of school children in the Cook Islands. They also provide a wide range of nonformal education opportunities including religious studies, youth groups, music, drama, sports and counselling.

There are a vast number of sports associations on each island and in each major village promoting a wide range of sporting activities. Sports clubs provide opportunities for the development of physical skills and instill positive attitudes towards working together for the betterment of the individual and the community. Cultural Development

The Ministry of Cultural Development facilitates public education and awareness through the delivery of courses and workshops and through its management of the National Library, National Museum, National Auditorium and National Archives.

The National Auditorium is the main venue for the development and promotion of the performing arts including drama, song and dance. The Ministry once played a major role in training artists and staging public performances but this role has been increasingly devolved to the private sector.

National Library staff conduct library skills workshops for Teachers College trainees. The workshops held in 1994, 1995 and 1999 were attended by a total of 52 trainees. In 1998, 5 participants attended a workshop on the conservation of valuable documents and books and a workshop on Disaster Planning in relation to books and documents is planned for late 1999.

Cultural Development Unit staff deliver a Cultural Studies course at the Tourism and Hospitality Training Centre. The course involves 12 lectures of 1 hour duration and educates trainees about our cultural heritage, the relationship between culture and tourism, and the importance of cultural tolerance. From 1996 to 1999 the course has had 30 participants, most of whom have been recent school leavers. Other workshops coordinated by the Ministry include a Traditional Navigation Workshop (1991), a Traditional Canoe Making Workshop (1994) and a Stone Carving Workshop (1997).

Source : Carmen Temata, Secretary of Cultural Development, August 1999. Environmental Education

Environmental awareness is promoted by Government agencies such as Tuuanga Taporoporo (The Environment Service) and the Natural Heritage Trust and by a variety of non-government organisations including the Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society, Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program (REAP), the Takitumu Conservation Area and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF).

The Environment Service is established by the Rarotonga Environment Act 1994-95 and is required by the Government to implement the National Environment Management Strategies (NEMS). NEMS identifies environmental awareness and education improvement as a major goal and recommends the strategies of increasing environmental training, increasing public information activity and preserving traditional knowledge management systems. The 6 awareness and education programs implemented by the Environment Service are :

1. Environmental Awareness Training

2. Environmental Youth Program

3. Environmental Education in School Curricula

4. Environmental Information Officer

5. Environment Resource Centre

6. National Biennial Environment Conference

The Environment Service identified the lack of information about the Cook Islands environment and the lack of materials in the Maori language as major constraints and has responded by building up a local resource base including fact sheets, reports, videos, slides and photographs. The Service has developed resources for environmental units in the school curriculum, has trained teachers on environmental issues and regularly communicates environmental information to schools through a column in the monthly Education Gazette.

The Natural Heritage Project (formerly part of the Environment Service but now a separate entity) specialises in collecting and communicating information on the biological diversity of the Cook Islands. The Project has conducted lectures and field trips for schools and the public, produced a variety of posters and books, and is developing a comprehensive database on Cook Islands species which will be accessible to the public.

The Service has found that past attempts to conduct community workshops specifically on environmental issues have not been very effective. The Service has had more success by "piggy-backing" onto programmes and workshops initiated by non-government organisations. These include the Koutu Nui and the House of Ariki (traditional leaders' organisations), the National Council of Women, Youth Groups, Uniformed Organisations and environmental NGOs such as Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society and the Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program (REAP).





Taau Taku Tita (Women's Project)

Canada Fund


Environment Service

Capacity Building



Environment Service

Ra'ui (marine conservation)

WWF / Marine Resources


Koutu Nui

Waste Minimisation

Local sponsors


Taporoporo Ipukarea Society

Save Our Shores

Local sponsors


Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program

As well as cooperating with NGOs to educate and promote awareness of local environmental issues the Environment Service also cooperates with international agencies such as SPREP, UNESCO and WWF to promote regional themes and global initiatives.




Media Education


1994 - 95

Year of the Turtle


1994 - 95

Year of the Coral Reef


1995 - 96

Environmental Education


1995 - 97

Clean Up The World

WWF and Local Businesses


The Environment Service promotes environmental issues through the television, radio and newspaper. It intends to expand its services to the outer islands and to target local issues such as Waste Management, Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge, Fishing Practices, Land Use Management, Environmental Impact Assessments and Disposal of Chemicals.

The future plans for environmental education were established at the 1998 National Forum with specific action being recommended on a number of issues.



Formal Education - Primary and Secondary

Focus on promoting values and awareness

Non-formal Education

Train the trainers approach encompassing the community, NGOs and religious groups

Spreading the Environment Message

An environment person in each Ministry, school, business sector etc

Coordinating and Maintaining the Environment Education Training Program

Establish an EET Working Committee and securing resources for a full time EET Coordinator USP Continuing Education Courses

In 1998, the University of the South Pacific Centre delivered 10 Continuing Education courses catering for 107 students.


Semester 1 Enrolment

Semester 2 Enrolment

Conversational Maori



Tivaevae / Local Weaving



Floral Arrangement



Basic First Aid



Glass Blowing



Introduction to Basic Computing



Introduction to Basic Excel 7



Introduction to Basic Word 7






The USP Centre also raises public awareness of issues through a free weekly column in the Cook Islands News newspaper and a quarterly journal entitled "Search" which is sold for $1 a copy. The Centre explored the possibility of facilitating education via panel discussions on television but decided that the costs involved were somewhat prohibitive.

Source : "Cook Islands USP Centre Annual Report 1998", John Herrmann, USP Centre Director


6.6.1 Introduction

The emphasis in this section is on the use of the mass media and modern channels of communication to reinforce and complement formal and non-formal education programs. In the Cook Islands there are 2 radio stations, 1 daily newspaper, a modern telephone system with Internet access, and 2 libraries and museums that are used to complement education programs.

6.6.2 Radio and Television Broadcasts

One FM radio station and one AM radio station broadcast programs on Rarotonga. Reception of the FM broadcast is limited to Rarotonga. The AM broadcast can be heard reliably in the Southern Group but reception in the Northern Group is variable. Radio has the potential to reach almost all the homes on Rarotonga and about three quarters of the homes in the outer islands.


% of homes with a broadcast radio receiver

Northern Group

74 %

Southern Group

74 %


98 %


89 %

Source : Census of Population and Dwellings 1996, Statistics Office, December 1996

All 13 inhabited islands, except Palmerston, Nassau, Suwarrow and Rakahanga, have television transmitters. Transmitter signals from one island are not able to be received by another island. In the past, video tapes of programmes shown on Rarotonga were flown to the outer islands for retransmission. Television has the potential to reach 80 % of homes on Rarotonga. Less than half the homes in the outer islands can receive television transmissions or view pre-recorded video tapes.


% of homes with a Television Monitor

% of homes with a TV Video Player

Northern Group

36 %

46 %

Southern Group

49 %

48 %


80 %

71 %


67 %

62 %

Source : Census of Population and Dwellings 1996, Statistics Office, December 1996

A range of Government and Non-Government agencies have used radio and television broadcasts to educate the public and raise awareness of local, regional and global issues. The following table lists the promotions broadcast by Radio Cook Islands and Cook Islands Television during 1998 and 1999.




Ministry of Health

HIV/AIDS Awareness

Cancer Awareness

Alcohol Abuse

Breast Feeding

Smoking Awareness

Tutaka (Home Cleanliness)

World Population - Elderly People

Condom Use


Environmental Services

World Environment Day

Turamarama - Environmental News

Rarotonga Environment Act


Environmental Impact Reports

Waste Recycling

Characteristics of Streams


Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program (REAP)

Coral Reef



Environment Awareness

Fish Poisoning

Dengue Fever

Toxic and Dangerous Chemicals

Clear, Clean Streams

Raui (Protected Lagoon Areas)


Suwarrow (Conservation)

Business - Government - Environment

Child Education - Crossing the Road

Child Education - Maths Timestables











Ministry of Agriculture

Role of the Sub-Regional FAO Office


Taporoporo Ipukarea Society

Say Yes to Cloth Sopping Bags


World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

Save Our Suwarrow (Conservation)

Clean Up the World

Environmental Programme


CI Family Welfare

Family Planning

Child Welfare

Antenatal Care




CI Red Cross

Role of the Red Cross


University of the South Pacific Centre

USP Role, Courses, Learning Experiences


R = Radio only TV = Television only TV / R = both Television and Radio

Source : Jeane Matenga, General Manager, Radio Cook Islands, August 1998

6.6.3 Newspapers

The only Cook Islands based newspaper to be continuously printed since 1990 is the daily (Monday to Saturday) CI News. For several years the "CI Press" was published every Sunday. This weekly newspaper tended to focus on political and economic issues. "Today’s Vision Magazine" is a new weekly publication with a focus on television programmes, movies and music. For several years the University of the South Pacific Centre has produced a quarterly publication entitled "Search" with a focus on education, governance and the promotion of new ideas. The monthly "Education Gazette" is distributed free to all schools and is a means by which the Ministries of Education, Health and Culture as well as environmental agencies communicate instructions and promote awareness to teachers and students throughout the Cook Islands. Newspapers from New Zealand that are sold in the Cook Islands include the New Zealand Herald and The Cook Islands Star. The following information about the Cook Islands News is edited from a report submitted by the Editor of the CI News.

Cook Islands News Ltd, privatised from government since 1989, operates on a daily circulation that expects to cover about 2,000 people (10 – 12 % of the population). The majority of customers are on Rarotonga but daily batches are sent to the Southern Group islands and weekly batches to the Northern Group, both depending on air line schedules. Although no survey has been conducted, it is generally accepted by CI News that the newspaper is mainly bought by one working adult who would then circulate it around all other family members of the household. Educational and public awareness campaigns promoted by CI News include :

1. Ministry of Health : "Oraanga Meitaki" is a weekly column, published free of charge from 1996 to the present, on annual topics such as AIDS and Safe Sex, Basic Health and Hygiene, Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Birth Control and Pregnancy, Childcare and Parenthood, and Oral Hygiene. These topics are also promoted by front page advertisements with the costs subsidised by the World Health Organisation and other agencies.

2. Ministry of Agriculture : From 1989 to 1997 a free column was published fortnightly on topics such as livestock care, planting advice, pest control, export produce returns and agricultural workshop information.

3. Ministry of Education : From 1995 to 1997 a free column was published on issues relating to the curriculum, sports, exam results, projects and coming events.

4. Ministry of Police : The weekly "Police Round Up" column has been published free of charge from 1996 to the present. The column raises public awareness of crime being committed and seeks the public’s assistance for a safer community. Issues include youth crime, dog population control, theft and drug abuse.

5. Environmental Awareness : CI News provides free space for environmental issues in the "To Tatou Ipukarea" section of the Monday edition and the "Environment" section of its weekend feature supplement. Contributors to these sections include the Environment Service, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society and the Rarotonga Environment Awareness Program (REAP).

6. Community Counselling and Welfare : CI News in its daily information page provides, free of charge, contact information on community counselling and welfare services such as Punanga Tauturu Inc (Anti Violence), the Family Welfare Association (Family Planning), the Children Welfare Association, the Cook Islands Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Esther Honey Foundation (Animal Clinic), Cancer Support Group, SDA Family Life Department, Health Watch Inc, Alcoholics Anonymous and Are Pa Metua (Elderly Health Centre).

7. Free Editorial Space : CI News provides free editorial space for public awareness issues as they arise. These have included :

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