Learn more about specific causes in Tokelau that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentTokelau consists of three small atolls, and is especially vulnerable to damage from tropical storms and climate change. Rising sea levels are a threat due to its small land mass surrounded by ocean. Its inhabitants are uneducated on proper waste disposal, which pollutes the environment.1
FamilyThe islanders have a strong connection to their Polynesian, Samoan, and other Pacific Islander heritage. However, the islands are at risk for losing their native culture as the population is steadily declining.1
Human RightsWomen and girls on the islands struggle to receive equal opportunities for work advancements as their male peers. Factors such as early marriage, teen pregnancy, sexual assault, and lack of government aid cause females to drop out of school earlier and therefore have less opportunities to advance their careers. 1 There is also no legal action in place to discourage sexual abuse and trafficking. As a result, perpetrators face no consequences even in cases that are reported to the police.2
EducationPublic education on the islands is free and compulsory for students ages 5-15, and it follows a similar structure to New Zealand’s educational system. Students learn about agriculture and the Maori culture and early on, with the option to receive more vocational training later.1 The biggest struggle for education on the islands is the lack of qualified teachers and limited access to remote villages. Experienced teachers opt to work on the mainland, and the islands’ isolation inhibits telecommunication capabilities.2 98% of children begin primary school at age 5, but only 64% are still in attendance by age 11. Dropout rates are high for both male and female adolescents.3
PovertyIn Tokelau, government job openings rotate among the community members in order to prevent the formation of a privileged class.1 Without the government aid, poverty on the island would be unavoidable. Isolation and a lack of natural resources make it almost impossible for the island to be self-sufficient.2
ReligionPacific Island tradition influences the practice of Christianity on the islands. The highest percentage of people identify with the Congregational Christian Church, a branch of Protestantism introduced by London missionaries.1 Members of the church have an annual celebration called “Gospel Days”, a commemoration of when missionaries first arrived on the islands. They sing, dance, and enact real-world current events that show the battle between good and evil.2
Clean WaterThe management of clean water sources is one of the biggest challenges on the islands. Drinking water is collected in tanks from groundwater sources or rainwater, but water purification systems often do not work properly due to a lack of expertise. The sewage management system also malfunctions without proper care, allowing raw sewage to flow into the sea water.1 New Zealand representatives provide instruction to islanders on proper waste management.2
EconomyTokelau receives millions of dollars in aid from the New Zealand government to bolster its economy. Government jobs are the main source of employment on the island. Agriculture and craft trades are only carried out at a subsistence level; they do not account for a significant amount of export profit. Citizens of Tokelau do not have to pay the New Zealand government for welfare even though they are beneficiaries of it.1
GovernmentTokelau is still dependent on New Zealand; a vote in 2007 to move to self-government failed to pass the majority. An administrator from the Department of Foreign Affairs in New Zealand works with a council of local leaders who represent the island.1
HealthAll of the islands struggle to educate residents about the dangers of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that result from unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, and inactivity. NCDs such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions were the leading cause of death in Pacific Island nations in 2013. By providing more regulation of alcohol and tobacco and educating citizens on the dangers of these activities, the government hopes to reduce the prevalence of NCDs.1 A lack of sexual education also leads to many teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.2
ChildrenYoung citizens who remain on the islands can take part in educational programs where they learn the traditional vocations of their ancestors, like canoe-making and fishing. These programs are a part of efforts to maintain the islands’ culture despite a mass population exodus to New Zealand.1 Children younger than 16 are not legally allowed to work, although the law is loosely enforced by the local Industrial Relations Officer.2
AnimalsMost of the wildlife population in the New Zealand territories is similar to other Pacific islands. Several species of insects and birds are endangered, but the local government has taken measures to protect them.1
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