New NGO ’39’ hopes to promote traditional Maldivian culture

The inauguration of new NGO Thirees Nuvaeh (‘thirty nine’), dedicated to promoting traditional Maldivian culture, has been postponed until next week because of rain in Male’.

The name ‘39′ is a reference to Article 39 of the Constitution, which states that all citizens will “participate in the cultural life of the nation.”

The organisation claims it will work towards “strengthening and consolidating democratic principles, human rights, gender equality and social justice; and, to lobby the government, the parliament, the judiciary, political parties, independent commissions, private agencies and individuals.”

One of the founding members of 39, Mohamed Nazim, said “we are losing cultural activities, because some groups and political parties are trying to push other ways of life.”

He said the purpose of the NGO was to bring back traditional Maldivian culture, and things people are no longer doing “because of political and other reasons.”

These include to traditional activities like thara jehun and bandiya jehun, traditional music and dance, both of which will be part of the inauguration ceremony tomorrow night.

Nazim said women in particular had stopped taking part in these activities “because they are not allowed or have been convinced it’s not good for them.”

“We are trying to tell people, ‘keep your eyes open, we are losing something valuable to us,’” Nazim said.

He noted they had approached most political parties, who have “indicated assistance and support” for the organisation.

Nazim said since “party politics are the main show of the town,” it was good to have close ties to the parties, but that while “we will take advice”, the NGO will not be a political organisation.

“We are trying to stay out of politics,” he said, adding that 39 has “members of all political parties” already signed up to the organisation.

Nazim said the NGO was founded after a group of 32 young Maldivians approached the president earlier this year to talk about Maldivian culture and moderate Islam.

He said there were currently no civil groups advocating for the strengthening of culture in the country, and “there was nothing they or the government could do.”

So they decided to found the NGO and lobby for cultural activities to be a more prominent part of Maldivian life.

“We want to bring these issues to the public,” he said.

The NGO will offer “seminars, functions and training sessions” to the public, and will bring professionals from overseas to help with the material.

“They will help us on how we’re going to survive and keep our rich culture growing,” he said.

Additionally, 39 has been contacted by many local NGOs from the islands and by foreign organisations who wish to assist them. The group said it hoped to work local organisations who are “like-minded” and promote their ideas.

Nazim explained that many of the local NGOs have “great ideas and objectives” and could do a lot for the country if they had better funding.

“Many NGOs are still not functioning because of lack of funding,” he said, noting that they already had pledges for funding from different people.

There are twelve founding members in Thirees Nuvaeh, but no full membership as of yet, “as we only received our registration from the Home Ministry yesterday,” Nazim said.

The inauguration was scheduled begin at 8.45pm on Friday night, but has been postponed due to the weather. Details about the new date will be available next week.