‘I am woman, hear me roar’

Tuesday 30 March 2021 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Local, National, Weekend


‘I am woman, hear me roar’
Police Senior Sergeant Joan Greaves and Constable Mereana Hagai with a trophy and flowers for Jane Tuavera - one of the first female police officers in 1971, gifted to Tuavera’s daughter, Shine Piri. 21032905.

An official parade attended by dignitaries, past police commissioners and police personnel was held yesterday morning to mark the 50th anniversary of women in Cook Islands Police.

Acting Police Commissioner Aka Matapo was pleased and privileged to address the special occasion conveying recognition and appreciation to over 100 women for their contributions in the past decades. 

“Our performance and standing has been strengthened by their commitment, and our community more enriched by their dedication to service,” Matapo, who took over from Maara Tetava last year, said.

The first women Jane Tuavera and Makiroa Luka, were recruited in 1971, initiating a path for other women to follow; Lynn Webb was also enlisted in the early 70s.

Matapo expressed, that women in police have demonstrated a proven ability to match their male counterparts when given the opportunity.

Cancy Maro (left) is one of the first two women in the Maritime Division for the Cook Islands. 21032908.

He said policewomen are not relegated to support roles, “they are team members and are capable for the challenge of leadership”.

 “The doors have opened wider for women in policing today and while the representation has improved over the years, we have not yet achieved parity in numbers compared to men in the Service.”

At present a quarter of frontline police officers (sworn) are women; just over 40 per cent of the staff (including non-Sworn) are female. 

However, women continue to explore the field of police and have achieved significant milestones.

Last year in August, Vaai Basnet and Cancy Maro recorded history by becoming the first women enlisted in the Maritime Division on Te Kukupa Police Patrol boat. One of these officers also became the first female to receive tactical firearms’ training. 

Also in 2020, Mama Tuki Wright’s Recruit Wing inducted the highest number of females (five from nine), and two female detective constables are producing fine results in criminal investigations, said Matapo.

Women in police face different pressures, the roles are not easy for anyone to endure and maintain, particularly with family responsibilities too – “the demands are high and often relentless”.

There are aspects to a career in police that others do not see or appreciate, “and our women are often the ones who carry the heavy burdens of two worlds – home and work. So, support is absolutely necessary, especially from within our own homes,” Matapo said.

While congratulating the achievements of women in police, the acting Police Commissioner told the female officers “your history of commitment is a proud record and a light for the many women yet to come”.

Police sergeant Joan Greaves, who is also the Cook Islands Police Women’s Advisory Network (CIPWAN) chair, paid tribute to the women police officers.

“I am indeed very proud to be part of this day. The legacy of the women who have served and served faithfully, is one of success and achievement… the voyage is not yet over but our path forward is stronger, thanks to those who came before us to set our foundations,” said Greaves.

She acknowledged the bravery of the first women who stepped up to enlist. “We honour you today.”

Policing requires determination, dedication, and a deep willingness to abide by your oath, and carry out the mandatory functions of the Cook Island Police, Greaves said.

“As women, you are not only expected to carry out your roles as police officers but you also have  commitments to your family and your communities.

“Our women’s instinct is unique and boosts our capability, especially in our decision-making, priorities, and opportunities to make a difference.”

She urged women to continue in advancing gender equality, empowering women, and supporting each other as equal partners and to further policing skills and ability.

Women are represented across all divisions of police work with high performances.

Greaves was reminded of the hit song “I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar)” by the Australian singer, the late Helen Reddy – “take a listen to the lyrics sometime and they will resonate, I’m sure”.