Mitiaro Island, Cook Islands
I come from my mum and dad. Together they have 11 children. I grew up on Mitiaro until I was 13 years old.
Then I moved to Rarotonga and stayed there with my grandma. We stayed in Black Rock and I always walked to school from home and back. In Rarotonga, life was hard. I was homesick. I got a part-time job working at the laundry. The money I made there went straight to my Auntie-I didn’t see any of it.
I moved to Mitiaro when my grandpa passed away. In Mitiaro, I looked for a job and got a job working as a house girl for the Ariki who is my Auntie. Then I started my family. I’ve got three children. For a time, I worked for the Government as an Environment Beautification Officer. I worked there for four years until I lost my job during the 1996 Reform. By then on the island, we had started exporting crafts to Hawaii to get income.
I built my house in 2000 and completed it in 2005. Without a regular income it was impossible to get a bank loan. Everything had to be paid in cash. In 2007, I decided to build a unit to rent out to tourists. It’s a small business.
In 2008, the post of Women’s Development Officer came up. I took a chance and applied for it. I got the job because of my work with the community and with women’s groups. This was a good time for me. In 2009, I went to Fiji for training in community development. It was very practical and I shared what I had learned with schools. That year, I also built another unit for tourists.
Today, I have three units to rent out and my own house. I continue to work as a Women’s Development Officer with the local government. This is the first conference I have attended. In Mitiaro, I sit on the Council of Women as the Government Representative.
When I go back home, I’ll encourage the youth to get involved. I’d also say ‘yes’ to standing as a Counsellor on the island. But to do that I’d have to convince them to vote for their own interests and not just for the candidate who can give them something for their side-pocket.