Hope for Women launch workshops for woman councilors and Island Women’s Development Committees.

Women’s rights advocacy group Hope for Women (HFW) has launched a new initiative focusing on woman councillors and members of Island Women’s Development Committees, (IWDC) aiming to “increase their involvement in decision and policy making processes.”

In a press statement on Sunday, (August 14) HFW stated it will “facilitate a three day training workshop in 11 targeted islands for representatives from the IWDCs and training in Malé for the 59 newly elected women councilors.”

“These workshops will focus on identifying challenges and solutions to improve the performance of IWDCs in assisting island councilors to develop and implement an effective strategic action plan.”

IWDCs are a subcommittee of the island council and are responsible for fund raising and activities to empower women. Only women are eligible to vote for IWDC members.

The majority of local councilors are men, with women having relatively few decision making powers at island level. The People’s Majlis in 2010 rejected a provision to include a quota for women in local councils.

Earlier this year, the government proposed abolishing the committees as part of a streamlining of local governance.

A recent publication by European Union Election Observation Mission for the Majlis elections in March noted that “women have traditionally been relegated to the private rather than the public sphere of life.”

HFW, one of the few NGOs working solely on the rights of women, conducts various programmes aimed at empowering women and supporting victims of gender discrimination. It recently launched an initiative to provide legal counseling on family law and prevention of domestic violence law.


Oath-taking ceremony for 14 councils delayed following High Court injunction

Oath-taking ceremonies for newly elected councilors were held on Saturday, except for those areas where complaints have been filed in the High Court.

The High Court on Thursday ordered that 14 areas were to suspend their oath-taking ceremonies until the High Court conclude cases filed regarding the elections.

Ceremonies scheduled to be held for H.Dh Nolhivaranfaru island council, H.Dh Nolhivaram area Atoll council, N. Miladhoo island council, R. Maduvvari island council, R. Maduvvari Area Atoll council, G. DH Faresmathoda island council, G.Dh Faresmathoda Area Atoll Council, A.Dh Dhangethi island council, A.A Mathiveri island council, A.A Atoll council, L. Atoll council, G.A Vilingili island council,G.A Atoll council and L. Dhambidhoo island council were delayed by order of the High Court.

The Court said if successful candidates in these areas took the oath while a case was pending in court, it violated the rights of those who filed the cases.

In all the other areas, successful candidates took the oath of office in their respective councils on Saturday.

Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has recently said that “thousands” of complaints were received by the party regarding the elections, and also accused the Elections Commission of being partial and unfair, filing such cases in the High Court.

MDP contends that some complaints could potentially change the results of some areas.

President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile said that the oath of office for local councillors was “a  historic step towards consolidating decentralisation.”

Speaking during his weekly radio address, Nasheed said that councilors were officially part of the country’s executive branch, and urged them “to work closely with the government to achieve the policy targets set out by the government.”


New councilors to take oath of office on Saturday

Councilors who have won seats on newly formed island and atoll councils are scheduled to take their oath of office on the morning of Saturday February 26, the Home Ministry has announced.

The ministry said that the oath-taking ceremonies will be held in all areas where the Elections Commission have announced the official results.

”The Island Councils will hold the ceremony in their respective islands and atolls, and councilors will take the oath in the capital island of each respective atoll,” said the Home Ministry.

Councilors of Male’ City will take the oath in Male’ and Addu City councilors will take the oath in Hithadhu, the Home Ministry added.

The Ceremony will commence at 9:00am in the morning and the Home Ministry has invited citizens to attend Saturday’s ceremonies “in the spirit of national unity.”

Meanwhile, the elections commission has announced the official results of almost all divisions except for the Council of Kela in Haa Alifu Atoll and other division where candidates got equal votes.

Following the election on February 5, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) won a clear seat majority while the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won control of the major population centres. The MDP calculated that the popular vote was 44 percent – 40 percent in its favour, but the EC has not confirmed this figure. Full breakdowns of the available results are available on the Elections Commission website.

Kela results were delayed according a High Court order after complaints were filed regarding the elections procedures.

Candidates uneducated

Islanders in at least one division have expressed concern that most of the elected councilors were not capable of handling such positions of responsibility.

One islander from the central region of the Maldives told Minivan News that on his island, only two of the five elected councilors have finished their GCE O’Levels.

”Because they ran as candidates for the seats under different parties, supporters of those parties have voted for them for the sake of promoting their party,” he said. ”Votes were not made with consideration for how educated the candidate is, or how capable the person, just by what political party he belongs to.”

He noted that the councilors will therefore follow the orders of their parties regardless of whether they were beneficial or harmful to their own island.

”For instance, if a foreign party were interested in developing our island, there is no way some councils could deal with it because they don’t even understand English very well,” he said. ”It would be the islanders who will have to suffer, I don’t think people really considered [candidates’] educational background or their capability.”

Recently Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told Minivan News many successful candidates in the local council election remained unaware of their new responsibilities, or even of the mandate of a local council.

“It is a fact that candidates from many parties including ours may not be clear on their responsibilities and mandates,” he told Minivan News.

All the councilors will take over the the administration of their respective island and atoll offices following the oath Saturday.

The new structure of island and atoll councils is meanwhile expected to cost the Maldivian state an extra Rf 173 million (US$13.5 million) a year, a figure that has raised concerns among international financial donors such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The President of every island council will receive a salary and allowance of Rf 15,000 (US$1160), council members Rf 11,000 (US$850). The mayor of Male’ will receive Rf 45,000 (US$3500).


DQP and DRP unveils coalition councillors training programmes

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) led by Dr Hassan Saeed has said that it will work with the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), led by MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to establish an action plan after a coalition agreement was signed between both parties.

The DQP said it hopes to initially target training schemes for both its own and DRP councillors elected during local council elections held earlier this month on how to conduct their roles.

”The objective of these activities is to make councillors capable and talented persons who can be examples in how to serve their fellow citizens,” said the DQP in a statement.

”Activities targeted on training the councillors will commence very soon.”

The party said it will also try to teach councillors on how to make the government more accountable.
“During the activities they [councillors] will be taught the role of Local Councils and Decentralization,” said the DQP. ”They will be trained to learn what citizens needs and how to work according to the pulse of the [public].”

The DQP claimed that experienced politicians from the DRP will also provide lectures during these activities.

On 8 February, the DRP held a council meeting – with party members reportedly belonging to factions supporting dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer allegdly absent – where they decided to sign a coalition agreement with the DQP. The agreement sae both parties pledging cooperation to each other during the 2013 presidential election as well as parliamentary and local council elections scheduled to be held in 2014.

During this month’s local council elections, a majority seats of island seats were won by the DRP, although the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed most of the seats in municipal areas such as Addu and Male’.

MDP has raised concerns that there were serious issues related to polling reports received by the party and has requested the Elections Commission to hold the elections in some areas for a second time. The governing party has also alleged that the Elections Commission were one sided in their conduct and that the council elections were unfair.