The National Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) was launched by the Maldives Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services (MoGFSS) in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to improve gender equality in the period 2022-26. The plan envisages working for better opportunities and women representation in the country according to the commitments laid out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and Universal Periodic Review.

Maldives enacted the GEAP to meet its timely obligations under Article 42 of the Gender Equality Act (Law No. 18/2016) that mandated gender support measures as part of the National Gender Policy. The Minister of gender, family and social services, Aishath Mohamed Didi, said at the launch of the GEAP, “Removing the structural barriers for women in the society is imperative for us to make the much-needed advancements in gender equality and fulfill our obligations under the Gender Equality Act, as well as our international commitments. It is also vital that a concerted and coordinated effort be made, to establish a strong framework for measurable actions to achieve gender equality.”

The vision of the plan guarantees gender equality, equal opportunity and justice for all. GEAP includes five policy goals including leadership and governance, economic empowerment, institutional gender mainstreaming, gender-based violence and access to justice. Every goal is articulated with a vision, goal, policy goal and various strategies. It is worthwhile to note that the plan includes various strategies to meet the diversified needs of the women in work environments.

Ensuring equal representation in political leadership has been bestowed as the most important aim. The targeted goal to improve the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (SDG target 5.5.1 indicator) from 4.6 per cent to 33 per cent by 2026 is appreciable. Representations are also targeted to be increased in local governments, managerial positions, and judicial positions.

The GEAP’s economic goal is set to improve the labour force participation rate from 45% to 60% by 2026, which will shorten the gender disparity in the economic field where men contribute 77% of labour force. One of the important strategies to address gender stereotyping in Maldives includes access to education, equitable employment, unpaid domestic & care work, and addressing the issue of ownership of land by women. It will involve the promotion of non-stereotypical roles that will address root causes. Strategies have been devised for various age groups of women, addressing the property issue, employment facilitation, civil service regulations, gender-equal parental leave, women- friendly approach in workplaces, etc.

To mainstream the female gender roles, the country will appoint or allot gender mainstreaming roles to Gender Equality model advocates in all state institutions. This allotment is currently only 4% and Maldives aims to increase it to 100% in four years. This role is expected to be a game- changer as it will strengthen the government’s responses to the needs of women and others which will ultimately strengthen the labour force participation rate and hence the Maldivian society. This goal will be achieved via seven strategies in different sectors for which targets have been allotted.

The elephant in the room when it comes to issues faced by women is domestic violence, societal violence and insecurity in society. The fourth policy goal aims to eliminate Gender-based violence. The outcome indicators used in the policy goal include percentage of married women who experienced violence, girls who faced Female genital Mutilation (FGM), rights of women to make informed decisions regarding their sex life and reproductive health, and women who could access modern methods of family planning. In all these indicators, the Maldives will target improvements including the complete elimination of FGM by 2026.

The last policy goal concerns “Justice” and aims to ensure “equal access justice, redress and effective remedies for men and women and boys and girls.” Commendable goals include increasing the percentage of female judges and magistrates from 11 percent to 15% by 2026. Another indicator includes percentage of cases reported to courts related to domestic violence (DV) & gender-based violence (GBV). The goal also involves tracking the percentage of women afflicted by GV and DBV who received legal assistance. Targets for both have been set at above 30% from the current average of only 3.7 percent.

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