The UNDP yesterday launched a report on Women in Public Life in the Maldives, during a function yesterday evening at the Traders Hotel.
The report contrasts the country’s relatively high basic human development metrics with the country’s low Gender Empowerment Measure, which ranks the Maldives 90th out of 109 countries.
The report noted that a “culture of protectiveness” was inherent in the Maldives, “where girls are encouraged to stay home and boys are encouraged to be out-going, forward and self-confident.”
This impacted women’s education, as cultural expectations limited the ability of women to study abroad and attain tertiary qualifications.
Only 37 percent of married women had access to contraception, while malnutrition “is a major contributor to complications and mortality of women during childbirth and underweight babies.”
Concerning political representation of women, the report noted that those women who were in public life came largely came from the established families and political elite, “re-emphasising the privileged position of those in power.”
Decentralisation, it suggested, offered opportunities for women to become involved in local governance and increase political representation.
Vice President Dr Hassan Waheed, officiating the launch, noted that the report came at a time when the world was celebrating women’s week and international women’s day.
”We need to start planning how to expose this issue to pubic life and make it available to the public,” he said. “I don’t think everybody is really aware of the situation.”
Dr Waheed called on women to become more involved in politics.
”If there is no room in politics for women to be active and come out, be in front and compete and succeed, I think we should consider other political parties,” he said. ”I think the performance of political parties should be judged to the extent by which the party addresses women’s issues.”
Female Civil Court judge Aisha Shujoon observed that “despite the constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination in equality before the law, prejudice in practice still exists.”
”My hope is that everyone will respect the constitution and accept the fact that women, given the opportunity, are as capable as men.”
Change would not be easy, said Shujoon, observing that “there are far too many women who are victims of violence, who are forced into human trafficking, prostitution, and are forced or coerced so as to not benefit from their work.”
”We need to look at how to make the situation better, not just by efforts of response, but also prevention. Women, after all, consist of half of our population and one would think that it is not only democratic, but also morally wise to hear the voice of this heart,” she said. ”This is why men and women need to work at the micro and macro levels in both public and private life. This is why we need to stand up to try to eliminate the many obstacles that remain for women to reach their full potential. The test for whether or not you can hold the job should not be determined by the arrangement of your chromosomes.”
Mauroof Ahmed, a famous local football coach, said he agreed that men and women were important in all areas on development, including social, economic and political.development whether it is economic, social or politics.
”Today we can see a lot of women contributing to our development, this trend must continue to grow,” said Mauroof. ”We need to help and provide the opportunity for women to participate in public life and encourage women to be involved.”