The material posted here was provided to the Division for the Advancement of Women by the Government in response to the Secretary-General's Questionnaire on Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. It has been made available in electronic format from the form received. In cases where it was not possible to reproduce charts and tables supplied, these can be obtained by contacting the Division for the Advancement of Women directly.



Overview of trends in achieving gender equality and women's advancement

It has been four years since Beijing and efforts have been made by the Government, NGOs and the UN system in the Maldives, in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. They have been working towards greater gender equality and mainstreaming gender concerns into the development process. The island nature of the country and the often rough weather have proven to be obstacles in reaching the island people. Despite this, a great part of the work that is being done has been and is directed towards the outer islands as it is in the rural areas that gender disparities are most pronounced.

People's lack of understanding and awareness of gender issues and the concept of gender equality makes any gender related work very difficult. Due to their lack of understanding, people often treat this kind of work with disinterest. As such, our main aim still is to increase awareness among the people on what gender is and how gender concerns effect their everyday lives.

During 1998-1999, the Ministry has given priority to increasing political and legal awareness of women. This has been done to encourage women into leadership positions, to increase women's participation in the political arena and to create awareness on the legal rights. For the upcoming 1999 general elections, the number of female candidates registered for contesting for the People's Majlis has increased more than ever. This increase in the number of candidates is evidence that the message is spreading and that women are finally gaining confidence to face public life.

A landmark event which has been a result of the recommendation made by the participants of the political and legal awareness workshops was the inclusion of a female representative from each atoll at the Atoll Chief's meeting held every two years. In the past, the meeting was attended only by the Atoll Chiefs and hence some issues were only discussed from a male perspective while others were not taken up at all.

Remarkable progress has been made in the education sector with all the primary curriculum material being reviewed to make it gender sensitive and additional material being added to it. Students are exposed to information they previously did not have access to. Areas such as reproductive health, population education and information on HIV and AIDS have also been incorporated into the curriculum. Facing the real world, armed with this information, students are able to make better-informed decisions. The building of new schools and upgrading of existing ones has also been a great benefit, particularly to girl students in the islands whose mobility is restricted.

The amount of available information relating to gender issues through the media has increased remarkably since the Beijing Conference. Until recently, atoll people only had access to newspapers and radios. Television programs were not broadcast in the islands. However, with television being accessed by more people, it has become a more powerful tool. The number of radio and television programs which focus on gender has increased, giving people more information about what gender issues are the differential access that men and women have to services and opportunities.

The most exciting development this year in this field would be the introduction of the Gender Management System (GMS). The initial assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat and later assistance from the UN agencies in the Maldives has made this multi sectoral project possible.

The attention to gender equality and the advancement of women has changed very much since 1995. The most notable change over the past four years being the shift in focus from women's development to addressing gender concerns. This is reflected in the changes which have occurred in public perception and in the changes which are occurring in the media portrayal of women. Efforts made by other sectors for the advancement of women and to gender equality is also evidence of this.

Financial and institutional measures

It is difficult to say what percentage of the national budget is allocated for women specific policies and programs. However, the government has given priority to the development of women and hence addressing gender concerns. For several years now, the National Development Plan has included a separate chapter for the development of women. As gender concerns are being mainstreamed, government departments are increasingly allocating part of their budget for addressing gender issues within their particular sector. This can be seen most clearly in the education and health sectors.

The UN agencies in the Maldives which includes UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO have also given a high priority to achieving gender equality and the advancement of women. As such they provide funding for government departments and NGOs alike for activities aimed at improving the quality of life of women and improving their position in society. There are other bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors who provide the government with funding on a small scale, for different activities related to the advancement of women.

The current level of co-operation and collaboration between the government and the NGOs in the follow-up efforts can be increased. However, members of NGOs do participate in the follow-up efforts of the Beijing Conference.

Implementation of the critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action

Critical area of concern Examples of successful policies, programs and projects to implement the critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action (Indicate any targets and strategies set and related achievements) Examples of obstacles encountered/lessons learned Commitment to further action/new initiatives Other
Women and poverty
  • Two loan schemes are administered by the Bank of Maldives which provide small scale loans without collateral. With the two schemes combined, loans are available throughout the country.
  • A revolving fund loan scheme provides credit without collateral to few people of selected atolls.
  • Lack of women's access to information on credit schemes and their lack of experience and knowledge in management of loans and financial matters means that very small numbers of women take interest in such initiatives.
  • The Ministry is planning to increase women's access to credit without collateral through a separate credit component administered and funded by the government.
Education and training of women
  • Women's Resource teams are formed in the islands and under the SADP project, they are trained in conducting nutritional programs and awareness programs in entrpreneurship, decision making and leadership. A group based activity on tailoring has begun as an offshoot of this component which includes a training component as well as the running of a retail shop.
  • There is greater emphasis on selecting equal numbers of male and female candidates for higher education opportunities. However, as candidates are selected on the basis of merit, their numbers are not equal due to unequal opportunities at higher secondary level.
  • To reach the national target of universal primary education, new schools have been built and older ones upgraded. There is no gender discrimination in the access to or provision of primary education.
  • A Career Education and Guidance Booklet has been produced by the Ministry of Education which will help to guide secondary students in choosing a career. The booklet doesn't assume that some careers are more suitable for girls or for boys. Similarly, "Youth Challenge", an annual career and higher education fair provides high school students with valuable career information.
  • The National Primary Curriculum has been revised a few years ago. One of the reasons for the revision was to ensure that there is no gender stereotyping and to eliminate gender bias. For example, in Practical Arts, modules such as needlework, cooking, fishing and carpentry are now available to both boys and girls.
  • A Distance Education Program is being conducted by the Non-Formal Education Centre to provide educational opportunities for people working in the atolls. 50% of the participants of this course are women.
  • The Ministry gives opportunities to members of Island Women's Committees and Ward Women's Committees for short term training abroad and for participation in study tours.
  • Girls' have relatively less access to higher secondary education than boys because they are less mobile as parents from the atolls are less willing to send their girls to other islands for study. However the situation is improving with the increase in the number of schools and the level of schooling available in the islands.
Women and health
  • Under the nutrition and safe motherhood program at Department of Public Health, activities have been carried out in the areas of promoting breast feeding, on increasing awareness in malnourishment and deficiency diseases of adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, on reducing the fertility rate, on the effects of smoking and on respiratory infections.
  • Much work has been done by the education sector in expanding and strengthening the school health program. This includes providing health information to students as well as increasing health services available to students.
  • Population education has been integrated into the formal school curriculum of the Maldives under a UNFPA funded population education project. This aims to increase awareness on the importance of the quality of life, population related problems and individual responsibility.
  • Reproductive health information as well as information on HIV and AIDS are included in the curriculum for General Science.
  • The population education program at the Non-Formal Education Centre gives great emphasis to women's health.
  • The Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Security conducts a program to increase the awareness of students and parents on the negative effects of early pregnancies.
  • The country is made up of small islands grouped together in atolls. As the islands have very small populations, it is not possible to establish health care facilities such as hospitals on every island. Therefore, it has been very difficult to provide adequate health services for the island people, particularly emergency services like obstetric care.
  • The government has a policy of relocating populations from the very small islands to relatively larger ones. With this change, it is hoped that services will improve considerably.
Violence against women
  • Sexual harassment and violent behaviour are unacceptable and hence all school rules are formulated to discourage this form of behaviour.
  • The stigma attached to victims of violence and sexual abuse hinders them from reporting such cases. This makes it very difficult to uncover the extent of the problem.
Women and the economy
  • Revised employment regulations safeguard against discriminatory practices on the basis of women's reproductive roles and functions.
Women in power and decision-making
  • The president in many of his speeches appeals for women to enter into politics. The president and his cabinet colleagues call for women to take measures at all levels to ensure gender equality.
  • Until recently, the National Security Service was a male dominated force. Now there is an emphasis on increasing the number of women recruited and training them for leadership roles.
  • Female teachers are given priority when selecting supervision teams within the schools. A training program is conducted for these teams in the form of workshops. As part of the senior management team of the school, these teams are at the decision-making level.
  • Participants at the Atoll Chiefs' Meetings held once every two years used to be only men. However recently, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Security, since last year every delegation comprised at least one woman.
  • The Ministry is conducting a series of workshops throughout the country to increase political and legal awareness of women.
  • Women's lack of support for other women in senior positions and their lack of understanding proves to be an obstacle for those women who aspire to such positions.
  • The Ministry will continue to hold political and legal awareness workshops throughout the country until all islands are covered.
Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
  • At the Education Development Centre, staff are trained to design and analyze data from a gender perspective. There is also an effort to use gender sensitive data in the formulation of policy and implementation of programs and projects.
  • A Gender Management System will be established in the country from late 1999 with the assistance from the UN agencies and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
  • Finalization of the National Women's Policy will strengthen efforts made by the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Security, Island and Ward Women's Committee's as well as Ngos working for the advancement of women.
Human Rights of women
  • The Friday sermons given at the mosques after the Friday prayers give advice to people on different issues which face them. They often call for women and children to be treated correctly by society.
  • In some of his speeches, the President reminds us that women's rights should be respected by all.
  • The passing of the New Family Law will be a land mark event for the women's movement in the country. This law new law specifies many rights available to women in the Shari'ah.
Women and the media
  • A 6-page monthly supplement targeted especially at women by the name of "Hiyamithuru" has been put out by Aafathis daily news covering general areas of interest and aimed at increasing awareness on general issues
  • "Faruvaa", "Arutha" and "Thasavvaru", three programs dealing with health issues, highlighting the development of the islands and looking at the effects of technology on Maldivian society, respectively, focus on the different effects that development in these areas have on women.
  • "Kamana" and "Rani" are two programs which portray women. These programs pay particular attention to how the women balance between family life and work and how they have managed to overcome stereotyped notions of women's role in the society.
  • The Ministry produces a bi-annual magazine, "Hiyala" which is a source of information, particularly for women in the islands and also gives insight to the situation of women elsewhere in the world.
  • Lack of information has been identified as a hindrance to producing good quality articles.
  • Media portrays women as objects because of lack of understanding of gender issues
  • Discussions are currently ongoing to integrate gender into existing programs which are broadcast through the media.
  • Work is currently being done to improve and strengthen the relationship between the Ministry and the media.
The girl child
  • The introduction of secondary education in the atolls has been a great advantage for girls because in the atolls girls had less access to secondary education. Two full-fledged secondary schools have been open in the atolls, in 1992 and 1998.
  • The government has introduced two scholarship programs for atoll girls to enable them access to secondary and higher secondary education. The scheme was introduced because atoll girls were more at a disadvantage than atoll boys.


Common Data Sets/Indicators for Measuring Development Progress






Population and fertility Population size '95




  Population aged '95





not stated
















  Population distribution '95









  Population growth rate '95 (1990-1995)


  Total fertility rate


Mortality Life expectancy at birth '98




  Infant mortality rate/'000 live births '98




  Under-five mortality rate




  Maternal mortality rate/100,000 live births '98




Health Population with access to health services


Reproductive health Contraceptive prevalence rate


  % of births attended by trained health personnel


Atoll Health Centres




  HIV adult prevalence


  HIV prevalence in 15-24 year old pregnant women


Gender equality in education Ratio of boys to girls in primary and secondary education combined '98


Economic activity % of labour force engaged in agriculture, industry and services




Economy GDP per capita (projected for 1999). In million Rf.


Education Functional literacy rate


Housing and environment % population with access to adequate excreta disposal facilities '95


  % population with access to safe drinking water

urban (10 liters/day)

rural (2 liters/day)





Source: Census 1995, Educational Statistics 1998, Ministry of Planning and National Development, Ministry of Health