Maureen Hilyard from the Cook Islands Internet Association Teuira Pirangi from Highland Paradise and Andrea Rongokea of Wedded Bliss were supported in attending the conference by the Chamber of Commerce.
“The experience was not only an eye-opener to the many successful businesses across the Pacific but also a realisation that despite the difficulties women in the Cook Islands may experience getting started and maintaining their businesses due to the constraints of some of our government and private sector financial or capacity building policies, our environment for entrepreneurship is much more facilitating than that of some of our sisters in other Pacific countries,” says Hilyard in a report to the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the group.
“Vast distances between women’s networks for some and the lack of quality internet connectivity for many, may limit important contact and support among women entrepreneurs. However, a common barrier to sustainable development of business ventures in many countries across the Pacific is the lack of access to financial services alongside appropriate education and training that will assist them to be successful and sustainable.”
Pacific Chambers of Commerce were recognised at the conference for the practical support they give for local businesses.
“The Gender Equality Project would like to take further advantage of the knowledge and experience of its own local Chamber members to build the businesses of our women entrepreneurs, even to our micro-to-small businesses at the market level.”
Violence against women, by both men and other women across the Pacific, was also identified as a barrier to the greater contribution that could be made by women in business,” continues the report.
These issues were discussed in a dialogue facilitated by the Australian Government’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, on the day before the PIPSO conference.
Support was sought for solutions from within the private sector to respond to the costs that can result from violence against women.
“These costs can directly impact on loss of productivity and service provision for businesses but also on police, health and justice systems, as well as loss of security and income for families.”
A Pacific study is currently being undertaken as to how the private sector is responding to this major societal challenge.
“I would urge the Chamber to publicly support any community efforts that will help to eliminate domestic violence so that women can more positively contribute to the economic development of our country,” says Hilyard.
Other Cook Islands women who were part of the conference included Jennifer Henry who delivered an entertaining presentation about Te Tika and its respect for traditional and scientific contexts was a much appreciated perspective.
Marian Gosselin attended as a representative of Cook Islands Westpac.
Westpac Bank was the conference’s Gold Sponsor.
In the next month, the Gender Project aims to seek out established companies who have an innovative idea that would add value to their current products or services, to make an application for support from the Project.
These companies would be potential contributors to the next PIPSO conference which is due to be held in 2016, however a preview would be possible in a Women’s Business Forum that the Project proposes to hold in May-June 2015.