2019 was a great year for women in Maldives. It started out hopeful, given the current administration’s stance on providing equal opportunities for women, and the fact that women constitute 35% of its cabinet of ministers was showed its commitment to the cause.
There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
~ Kofi Annan
While the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration always put in the effort to encourage women’s participation in all areas, there were a lot of firsts in 2019.
The parliamentary elections were held in April this year, where four women were elected. While this is less than the previous group of female lawmakers and just about 5% of the entire house, lets have a look at where these four women are right now.
EVA ABDULLA – MP Eva represented the same constituency in the 18th parliament. While she was seen as one of the few lawmakers to really speak on the people’s interest, she is currently not able to participate in the debates as much she used to. Why? Because she was elected as the deputy speaker, the very first female one the country has seen.
HISAAN HUSSAIN – MP Hisaan is a lawyer turned lawmaker. After making a name for herself through her work, she contested for parliament for the Thulhaadhoo constituency seat this year. She has since been chosen as the parliament representative at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
ROZAINA ADAM – This is MP Rozaina’s second time as Addu-Meedhoo MP as well. She has always been vocal about the causes she believes in and is never one to back down. Rozaina is currently the chair of the parliament’s committee on independent institutions.
JEEHAAN MAHMOOD – This is MP Jeehaan’s first term as a parliamentarian, but she has been a household name for years through her various work for the community especially for women and children. A former head of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), MP Jeehaan now chairs the parliament’s human rights and gender committee.
Two female justices were appointed to the apex court in September and this was probably was one of the biggest win for women this year. This comes 12 years after the appointment of the country’s first female judge.
AISHA SHUJUNE MUHAMMAD was among the first female judges appointed, while DR. AZMIRALDA ZAHIR is one of the few PhD holders to serve as a judge and the only female judge to ever sit on the High Court bench.
The president nominated the two after the Judicature Act was amended to increase the number of justices from five to seven, and the appointments were made despite the controversy it sparked over claims that this is a sin is Islamic law.
Since their appointment, Justice Azmiralda was appointed interim chief of the court following the retirement of Justice Ahmed Areef, and Justice Shujune was elected as its representative at JSC recently.
The president had nominated a third female for the bench, DHIYANA SAEED. While she did not pass the parliamentary process, Dhiyana has always broken barriers in her career (not just in Maldives, but abroad as well); she was Maldives’ first female attorney general, and the first female Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) since the organization's inception in 1985.
MORE WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP ROLES
- Over 45% of the foreign diplomatic missions are being run by women; eight out of the 17 missions.
- Three of the four newly elected members of the Anti-Corruption Commission are women, and MARIYAM SHIUNA and FATHMATH ANOOLA were elected President and Vice President, respectively, in September.
- The current president of the country’s broadcasting regulator is a woman. MARIYAM WAHEEDHA started out her career in the media as a news presenter and earned her post at the commission through years of hard work. She was appointed to the commission, and elected its president in December. She received some backlash over her actions since appointment, and the parliament's independent institutions' committee is to probe the matter after its commences next year.
- A woman was appointed as the country’s first Consul General this year. AMINATH A. DIDI heads the Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, India.
Women have been playing sports in the Maldives for years, but 2019 has undoubtedly been the most successful one thus far. Table tennis, basketball, badminton, volleyball, swimming and football…you name it...they got medals!
Maldivian teams competed in two major international multi-sport events this year (among other tournaments); the Indian Ocean Island Games (IOIG) and the South Asian Games. While the country won its first medal at the IOIG in 1979, the women's table tennis team made history this year. The women's table team played in pairs, and one secured Maldives' first gold medal in a team category at an international multi-sport event while the other won silver; this is the first time the country has won both gold and silver in the same event in an international tournament. 11-year-old Fathmath Dheema also won gold in the singles event. The women's badminton team followed, with AMINATH NABEEHA ABDUL RAZZAQ winning gold in the singles event (the country's first-ever in badminton), while she and her sister NABAAH won silver in the doubles event.
Women's teams continued to make history at the South Asian Games 2019, as such Maldives secured its first-ever medals in football and basketball at this multi-sport event.
The women's volleyball team won its first-ever medal for the country at the AVC Senior Women’s Central Zone Volleyball Championship, a silver one, in November.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT YEAR?
The government's aim to empower women and ensure gender equality showed in a number of its decisions. One such example is the upcoming local council elections. In order to ensure this, the Decentralization Act was recently amended with provisions to allocate 33 percent of local council seats for women. Earlier this month, a draw for the seats allocated for women was taken in the presence of officials from political parties.
We need our daughters to be brought up in an environment ripe with equal opportunities.
~ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih