"This is the first targeted training for government officials to undergo training on gender awareness and analysis to support them in their role to mainstream gender into public policy and programmes in Cook Islands.""This is the first targeted training for government officials to undergo training on gender awareness and analysis to support them in their role to mainstream gender into public policy and programmes in Cook Islands", says Ruth Pokura, Director for Gender and Development Division, Ministry of Internal Affairs Cook Islands. The training was an opportunity for policy makers to reflect on their own areas of work and to explore the gender issues and impacts in their respective ministerial policies. The training was attended by twenty three senior government officials from the ministries of health, foreign affairs, aid management unit, statistics, justice, education, internal affairs, planning and finance.
Building on the gender equality momentum of the recent Forum Leaders' meeting held in Cook Islands, the Cook Islands government initiated this training for policy makers. "Gender responsive government programmes and policies is the first outcome of the national gender equality policy of the Cook Islands and we recognize there is a strong need to first support our policy makers appreciate there are gender issues in Cook Islands and realise all aspects of our work either in policy making or in implementing projects has potential gender impacts," says Bredina Drollet, Head of Ministry, Internal Affairs.
Apart from gender awareness and analysis training, government officials received first hand information of the status of the first gender profile being developed by the National Statistics Office with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. "Clearly there is a need for key Ministries to understand the importance of collecting sex-disaggregated data. We are endeavouring to complete the Cook Islands gender profile by 2013 but we are finding it difficult to collect data that is sex disaggregated," says Kevin Hosking, Senior Statistician in the National Statistics Office. The presentation of draft statistics on employment and population trends peaked a lot of interest from policy makers around the table. According to Foreign Affairs Officer, Steven Barrett, "There is a real need for thorough interpretation and analysis of the data to attain and properly understand the gender impacts as this in turn provides the foundation premise for informed policy making." Many of the government officials commented that the workshop was extremely useful and highlighted the need to continue advocating for gender perspectives in all sectors of government to reinforce understanding and application of gender mainstreaming across government.
In 2010, the Cook Islands government was one of several Pacific Island countries to undergo a stocktake of the gender mainstreaming capacity of Pacific Island governments. The activity which was conducted in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community has culminated in a stronger partnership with the SPC and the Cook Islands government. Consultations around the development of the national gender equality policy and this follow-up training is one of several follow-up support initiatives agreed to and provided by the SPC Human Development Programme to the Cook Islands government.