Speech by Pek Chuan Gan, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Maldives
Launch of TSM Maldives Case Study - Bolstering support for Temporary Special Measures to strengthen women’s political participation: Launching new UNDP guidance and research
Good morning! Greetings and welcome, everyone.
I am honored to be here with you at the launch of the new UNDP guidance and research on temporary special measures to enhance women's political participation. This marks a significant milestone for both UNDP and the Government of Maldives as we strive to amplify the political engagement and representation of women in the country.
The Maldivian government, under successive administrations, has prioritized the empowerment of women, recognizing the need for substantial efforts to ensure gender equality and the effective protection of women. Positive strides, such as the appointment of the first female justices and the amendment to the Decentralisation Act, demonstrate our commitment to progress. However, despite these advancements, women remain significantly underrepresented in key areas, including the judiciary, parliament, local governing bodies, and decision-making roles in both public and private sectors.
While women's participation in elections is notably high, their representation in other political spheres remains disproportionately low. The introduction of a quota system for local council elections in 2021 resulted in a substantial increase in women's representation, yet challenges persist. Women in politics face heightened scrutiny, personal attacks, and resistance to initiatives like the quota system.
The National Gender Equality Action Plan is actively working to promote women's representation in public and political leadership, including training programs and potential amendments to the Political Party Act. However, resistance to these changes underscores the need for continued efforts to raise awareness and garner support.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development reaffirms its commitment to implementing the Gender Equality Law and associated policies. This commitment presents an opportunity for strategic collaboration with the Government and civil society to accelerate progress in line with CEDAW and UPR recommendations.
We remain committed on the Maldives’ journey towards gender equality and women's empowerment.
In 2020, UNDP championed the cause of women's political leadership by successfully advocating for a 33% quota for women in local councils. Following this achievement, 108 women candidates, representing various sectors, underwent specialized training to enhance their skills and competitiveness in the local council elections. Post-election, UNDP continued its crucial work to ensure the quota's effective implementation.
To empower more women for leadership roles in local councils, government, and other agencies, UNDP tailored training programs for diverse audiences. This included women's wings of political parties, members of women's development committees, women interested in leadership, and young girls. Through these initiatives, we aim to not only meet the quota but also cultivate a sustainable environment where women are equipped and empowered to excel in leadership positions.
UNDP remains committed to fostering inclusive and representative governance, recognizing that investing in women's leadership is pivotal for the prosperity and progress of our communities.
Under UNDP Maldives' Integrated Governance Programme (IGP II), we achieved significant strides in women's political empowerment, including the successful introduction of a legislative quota. Sustaining this momentum is crucial, as indicated by the 2020 Women's in Political Parties Assessment.
International experiences emphasize that effective approaches to women's political empowerment must systematically address electoral frameworks and socio-cultural barriers. Over the past four years, UNDP's efforts under IGPII fostered partnerships with political parties, resulting in unprecedented dialogues and progressive successes.
The upcoming IGP III program aims to capitalize on these partnerships, strengthening political parties' internal structures, particularly their women's wings, through technical and capacity-building support. This empowers parties to effectively engage with women and advocate for gender equality measures within the party and at the policy level.
To address barriers preventing women from contesting in elections, IGP III enhances programmatic support, establishing training programs within political parties to build the capacity of potential female candidates. This includes dialogue platforms to discuss and address structural barriers facing potential female candidates.
Novel and innovative programs, including the Practice Parliament for Women and Vaane Camp for Young Girls and Women, will continue to be adapted and rolled out in UNDP Maldives. Together, we forge ahead in creating a more inclusive and equitable political landscape for women in the Maldives.
Members of the audience,
Globally, women constitute 40-50% of political party members, yet they hold a mere 10% of leadership positions within parties—a trend mirrored in the Maldives. Political parties serve as the primary avenue for Maldivian voters to elect representatives to the National People’s Majlis and local government.
Post the April 2019 national elections, where 93% of elected Majlis members belonged to political parties, UNDP recognized the pivotal role of these parties in fostering women's inclusion. Since 2016, UNDP has collaborated with Maldivian political parties to enhance women's participation and representation. Notably, efforts at the national level involved policy changes and the adoption of Gender Action Plans, guiding systematic involvement of women within party structures and supporting more women candidates in elections.
A Guidance Note, providing essential information on developing these Gender Action Plans, has been shared with political parties and will soon be available on the UNDP website for broader access. However, recognizing that action plans alone are insufficient, UNDP is actively exploring models for parliamentary election quotas, aiming to ensure national policies encourage political parties to promote women members for parliamentary candidacy.
We are striving for a political landscape that reflects the diversity and strength of our entire population.
In closing, my sincere congratulations to the HQ team for crafting this crucial guidance document. It will undoubtedly be a cornerstone for Country Offices and agencies navigating Temporary Special Measures (TSM). The Maldives CO is grateful for the chance to share our experiences in this important dialogue.
As we champion the introduction of TSMs in elections, let's anchor our efforts in long-term women's leadership and political participation programs. Whether addressing individual challenges or dismantling structural barriers, such as discriminatory legal frameworks, each initiative acts as a catalyst for successful TSM implementation.
Let's stay committed to creating a political landscape that embraces diversity and potential. Thank you for your dedication. I am optimistic about the positive impact this guidance document will bring to our collective journey toward gender equality and women's empowerment.