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The Cook Islands Government recently celebrated a milestone achievement for the development of its young people through the launch of the National Youth Policy 2021-2026.
“Te Mana o te Mapu – the Power of our Youth as Nation Builders” was launched by the Minister for Internal Affairs, Honourable Mac Mokoroa on 24 December 2020.
Hon. Mokoroa during the launch acknowledged the youth of Cook Islands for their contribution to society and highlighted the importance of their development in all areas.
"I personally advocate for the development of youth in all areas including sports, the church, education, business, environment, culture and even politics. It is only through such exposure that they will be able to gain the confidence to move from observers to participants and onwards to future leaders,” Hon. Mokoroa said.
The Pacific Community (SPC), through its Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) Division, provided technical and financial support for the youth policy to ensure that young people are recognised, developed and supported as powerful actors of change in the Cook Islands.
Hon. Mokoroa acknowledged SPC’s support towards the youth and the Government of Cook Islands which enabled the completion of the policy.
“I acknowledge the substantial technical and financial support by the SPC in producing this work for the development of our young people,” Hon. Mokoroa highlighted.
Dr Stuart Minchin, Director General of SPC, thanked the Cook Islands Government for trusting SPC to provide technical support towards the youth policy for the betterment of the nations young people.
“The theme (of the policy) in my opinion is a powerful declaration from the Cook Islands government of the collective commitment and dedication to nurture the many talents and potentials of young Cook Islanders as nation builders,” Dr Minchin noted.
He stated that the policy signifies the Government’s commitment to engage young people of Cook Islands at all levels of building back better from the impacts of COVID-19 and the other climate and human threats the country has faced in 2020.
The 2021 – 2026 National Youth Policy outlines the following five key priority areas to guide youth development:
- Youth are proud of their culture, traditions and identity
- Youth are learning and developing
- Youth are healthy and resilient
- Youth are accepted, respected and connected
- Youth are environment action ready
These priorities were informed by the review of the 2015 – 2020 policy and consultations with key stakeholders and young people through a survey, community consultations and face to face interviews.
Te Mana o te Mapu is aligned to the Pacific Youth Development Framework (PYDF) 2014-2023: A coordinated approach to youth-centered development in the Pacific.
It will also inform the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+. The Policy will be monitored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs as secretariat to the newly established Te Mana o te Mapu Steering Committee.
As part of the event, Moeroa Ben-Hosking, on behalf of the Cook Islands youth shared her story of resilience and achievement. She is hopeful that the Youth Policy will bring about great development for the young people in the Cook Islands.
“I am hopeful for many things. Youth stability, security, collaboration and government consistency. May this youth policy advocate for this and more. Stability and security, where our youth can flourish mentally, physically and spiritually without worrying about economical and residential struggles,” Ben-Hosking said.
“Collaboration – where the voices of our youth continue to be heard. Where we all learn to be active participants to change from government or educational schemes. Government consistency – whereby this policy is implemented and monitored closely and reviewed,” she added.
The event also marked the opening of the Cook Islands first Youth Hub, home to a new youth service managed by Empower Me Inc, which is a church youth organisation. The Youth Hub is a ‘safe space’ for the young people in the Cook Islands and is envisioned to be a place for support, mentoring, learning and networking.
Empower Me Inc Advisor Bob Williams explained the full functions of the Hub as well as the history of the project and the significance of the purple theme as a tribute to Makea Karika, Te Au o Tonga and Rarotonga as the lands on which the Youth Hub is built.
“This is not a denominational youth hub. Whatever race or status you have in the Cook Islands, this home is for you. It is a place for the youth to go to when they are in need,” Williams said.
“The youth hub will also be supporting the implementation of the National Youth Policy,” he added.
Anne Herman, Cook Islands Director for Youth, introduced the new Te Mana o te Mapu logo designed by local artists Tuaine 'Katu' Teiti and Mahai Daniel which encompasses all five priority areas of the Policy and a M for Mana (power) and Mapu (Youth).
"As much as we empower our mapu, we must also teach them to protect their power - we are advocating resilience,” Herman said.