Until very recently, Punanga Tauturu Incorporated faced an uncertain future. But now coordinator Rebeka Buchanan has ended ongoing speculation that the organisation would close down – and says it will continue to provide a service for those in need.
Despite staff losses and major cuts in funding, she says the organisation is still working to make our communities safer for women and children in the Cook Islands.
“We are an NGO that recognises the rights of women and children and their ability to access justice when domestic violence and other forms of gender based violence is concerned.”
Despite the fact that it performs vital work in a country where domestic violence is a major issue, Punanga Tauturu has faced numerous obstacles and hindrances over the last five months.
The end of March saw the NGO in disarray with the loss of two-thirds of its staff, at a time when funding and other issues meant the office was only just able to function.
The setback left Punanga Tauturu running as a one-woman operation, with Buchanan directing and managing the office, as well as counselling and referring domestic violence victims to relevant agencies.
Almost two months after their budget period had ended, the organisation finally received their three-year funding package.
However, unbeknown to the public, the period between budgets left Buchanan unpaid and working voluntarily for almost three months.
Punanga Tauturu soldiers on, despite money woes
“My main concern has and always will be the clients and ensuring their safety.
“The delay in budget was simply a result of the funding process. Everyone was doing their bit, but sometimes these things take time.”
Officials have ensured Buchanan that the funding process will be quicker in future.
And despite all the odds, she says things are looking up for Punanga Tauturu.
“I have a volunteer helping at the moment, and we also had our first board meeting last week, which meant everyone, including the stakeholders are now on the same page.
“We all have the same end goal, and that is ensuring the relative help is available to women, children and men.”
Though the new budget has created major financial setbacks, Buchanan says Punanga Tauturu still strives to do all it can to help those in need.
“We are still offering the services we previously offered, be it counselling, education, professional advice, or simply support through a trying time.”
It is clear the organisation is still short staffed, as the office contains three unoccupied desks and chairs Buchanan admitted there was no room in the new budget to fill the spaces with able bodies, but assures the public Punanga Tauturu is open and willing to help in every way possible.
“We are fully immersed in taking care of the people of the Cook Islands.
That has, and always will be our main focus,” Buchanan says