Hulhumale door-knocking reveals lack of awareness of constitution

Preliminary findings from the ‘Did you Know’ door-knocking campaign have revealed that half the 500 homes in Hulhumale visited by the volunteers were unaware that the Maldives had a new constitution, let alone what it contained.

The UNDP-run campaign, which launched on November 26, is an attempt to address a lack of public awareness into how the judicial system works – a critical problem for the development and promotion of human rights in the Maldives, according to the UN body.

One component is the ‘Did you Know?’ campaign, involving a team of 27 volunteers door-knocking around Male’, Hulhumale’ and Villingili explaining rights and distributing brochures.

“I found it was women who were the most disinterested, and I think more so among the older generation,” UNDP National Project Manager Naaz Aminath told Minivan News, after knocking on the doors of 500 houses in Hulhumale.

“But they would sit there and listen, particularly to subjects such as employment rights, and the right to a pension. One mother said she’d never heard of the constitution, but we asked her if she worked and talked about her employment rights, which she said was really useful.”

Only about 20 of the 500 homes approached in Hulhumale’ were unwilling to invite the volunteers in, Naaz noted.

“In those instances we left a pamphlet. But mainly people were very welcoming, even though they were busy doing things like cooking and minding children. We were often invited in for a drink.”

Many men showed awareness of their rights, but felt that getting involved in understanding the constitution meant getting into politics “and said they did not want to get involved. But they generally did listen,” Naaz said.

Glimpses into the private lives of so many homes was confronting for some of the volunteers – “We came across other issues – in one house a victim of domestic violence broke down in tears when we walked in. We can’t fix everything [with this project], but we can provide directions on how to contact authorities.”

The consensus after the Hulhumale’ campaign was that while households had an awareness of the new constitution gleamed through television, “there’s a difference between being aware of it and knowing what’s in it.”