Government plans to launch new scheme to empower local councils

Fifty percent of rent from atoll shops in Male’ and lease rent on uninhabited islands is to be given to atoll councils, the government has decided.

Speaking at a function marking the decentralisation of administration in the Maldives, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik announced strategies for providing financial support to local councils, local media reported.

As of July this year, the government plans to give 50 percent of rent from atoll shops and uninhabited island lease rent to atoll councils.

The president noted that for the decentralisation system to work there would need to be equal assistance and opportunities for the people. To do this, Waheed said it would take local councils to set aside their political differences.

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Traders employees de-litter jetties 6, 7 for World Tourism Day

Traders Hotel Male’ employees welcomed World Tourism Day by cleaning jetties six and seven and surrounding areas last Tuesday, September 22.

The fifty employees who participated used brooms, gloves and bags to accomplish their mission. The team collected ten bags of litter from the streets and marine areas.

Traders Hotel said the activity “aimed to increase the awareness of the employees and local community about the importance of protecting the environment for a better quality of life. It also reinforced the hotel commitment to serve as a good steward of the environment.”

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Special Sports Festival to improve opportunities for disabled students

The first Maldives’ Special Sports Festival was held today at the Henveiru Football Ground, sponsored by Care Society and telecommunications company Dhiraagu.

The event is part of Dhiraagu Anniversary Celebrations.

Students from Care Development Center (CDC), Jamaluddheen School (JS), Imaadhudheen School (IS), and Maldives Deaf Association (MDA) are expected to participate in group relays and races. Officials anticipate welcoming 700 spectators to the event, scheduled for 4 to 6 pm today.

CDC was implemented by Care Society in 2001, and presently supports 51 disabled students directly to develop skills in communication, living, academics, crafts and behavioral issues.

CDC and Dhiraagu have designed the Special Sports Festival as an annual event to support the disabled community by fostering community awareness and integration.

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Abandoned child legally assigned foster parents for first time in Maldivian history

The Family Court has assigned foster parents to a 10-month-old baby for the first time in Maldivian history. The child, who had been abandoned, was transferred from state care to a married couple on Sunday, September 18.

“This is the first time that non-biological parents have been given legal guardianship of a child in the Maldives,” said Ilham Mohamed, a local NGO worker familiar with the matter.

Mohamed said that foster parents previously risked the biological parents turning up to demand money and/or the child. “This example will make the process more secure,” she said.

The new foster parents will have the same legal rights given in adoption, except for the rights to consent to marriage and leave an inheritance.

Mohamed pointed out that in many cases where a father will not consent to his daughter’s marriage, the young couple requests and often receives court permission. She said the process usually takes between two and three months.

The couple’s lawyer, former Attorney General (AG) Aishath Azima Shakoor, told local media that the couple wanted to opt for their new daughter to inherit an equal share of their property. According to Mohamed, Maldivian law allows foster parents this option.

Shakoor recently told local media that the court had transferred the state’s legal guardianship of the child under Shari’a law to the couple, who have agreed in writing to protect and provide for the girl.

The Maldives did not provide services for abandoned children before the 1990s. Sources say that the number of abandoned children rose during that decade, possibly due to the allegedly higher rate of drug use among young adults at that time.

In 1992, the Ministry of Gender and Family established the Unit for the Rights of the Child (URC), now known as the Child and Family Protection Services (CFPS). Since then, the ministry maintains that the number of care-giving staff and institutions are unable to meet demand.

An Auditor General’s report dated 2009 reported 43 children at the state’s orphanage on Villingili, near Male. The report noted that the orphanage was understaffed and staff members were unable to provide sufficient care for children below the age of five. Most employees were not trained in child psychology, and there were no provisions for medical emergencies.

The orphanage on Male is currently over capacity and children are not segregated by age, said Mohamed.

Minivan News previously reported that Maldivian Family Law requires various next-of-kin be asked to care for abandoned children before the state assumes responsibility. But the process of identifying proper care-givers was reported long and difficult, and the Ministry of Family and Gender was regularly backed up with applications at the time.

The report also noted that adoption, as it is handled in the West, is illegal in Islam.

“Adoption in the Western style is not part of Islam,” explained Mohamed. “But fostering, or taking people into your care, is part of Islamic culture. It doesn’t really matter what name you use, foster or adopt, just so long as children have a safe place to live.”

Mohamed said she believes most orphanages have wait lists, and expects foster parenting to increase significantly.

“The couple that has been approved struggled to convince local authorities of their case. But now that this has been done once, it won’t be difficult for people to do it again.”

Mohamed noted that the struggle to legalize foster parenting began in the late 1990s, and calls the recent case a “very significant event.”

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Baa Atoll to host Bodu Beru tournament

Baa Atoll and Four Seasons will host a Bodu Beru tournament in honor of Baa Atoll’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The ‘Baa Youth Bodu Beru Challenge’ will take place on 17 and 18 November 2011 on Kamadhoo. The competition is open to Bodu Beru groups with 16 to 26 members aged 15 to 25 from the 13 islands of Baa Atoll.

Four Seasons has teamed up with Male-based cultural arts institution Varutha for the event. The institution was founded in 2007, when the ‘Meenaz’ bodu beru group noticed the need for a formal, organised means of sustaining Maldivian arts culture.

Varutha dancers will lead a 10-day workshop from September 23 to October 3. Two drummers from each competing group will have the opportunity to hone their skills and explore new bodu beru beats and methods.

Bodu beru is said to have made its first appearance in the Maldives in the 11th century AD, allegedly by sailors in the Indian Ocean. Bodu beru groups typically consist of 15 performers, including three drummers and a lead singer. Using a small bell, a set of drums known as the ‘bodu beru’, and an onugandu – a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, which is scraped – performers create a lively rhythm for dancing.

Varutha’s co-founder, Sham’aa Abdullah Hameed [Anna], expressed appreciation and support for the youth arts event.

“The tournament reflects our shared mission to reconnect local youth with their rich cultural heritage by restoring, developing and incorporating tradition into the rapidly evolving Maldivian music scene. We’re looking forward to a successful workshop and an exciting two days of competition.”

Landaa Giraavaru’s General Manager and Regional Vice President, Armando Kraenzlin, said UNESCO’s recognition of the environmental value of Baa Atoll inspired the competition.

“UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves rely on optimum social, economic, and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. We’re delighted to be working with Varutha to help strengthen the respect for cultural values amongst the Baa Atoll youth, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to their home island’s own sustainability.”

The winning team will receive Rf 100,000 (US$6485) towards a community project, and Rf 10,000 (US$650) for themselves. The team will also be invited to an awards ceremony on Landaa Giraavaru island on 28 December.

Team Application Forms and full Tournament Rules and Regulations can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/baa.boduberuchallenge.

All applications must be submitted via email by 30 September 2011 to [email protected]

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