ICPD 2014 Beyond – Maldives

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Workshop for the Maldivian Civil Society

As part of the Maldives Country Review for the ICPD 2014 Survey, a workshop was held at the United Nations Building in Male’, Maldives, on 26th September 2012. Twenty participants representing various NGOs in the Maldives and representatives from the stakeholder ministries and institutions took part in this workshop.

The workshop was initiated by a brief presentation about ICPD and the Maldives country review by Mr. Rune Brandrup, International Programme Coordinator of UNFPA Maldives. This was followed by a presentation on the ICPD Maldives country review process by Ms. Aishath Azfa, consultant to the UNFPA. The participants were then divided into five groups according to thematic areas given below.

  • Group one: Urbanization, Internal Migration, International Migration and Development
  • Group two: Family, well-being of individuals and societies, ageing and needs of elderly, needs of people with disabilities, needs of indigenous people
  • Group Three: Gender Equality, equity and empowering women, Population, Sustained Economic growth and Sustainable Development.
  • Group Four: Needs of Adolescents and Youth and Education.
  • Group Five: Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health and Health, Morbidity and Mortality


Each group was given a simplified version of the Global Survey Questionnaire and was asked to prepare a brief presentation on their respective theme. A facilitator, a rapporteurs and a presenter was identified from each group.


During the group presentations, every group outlined the current situation in their respective thematic areas and highlighted the key issues in the area in the Maldives. The groups also highlighted the main challenges faced in these areas and recommended possible solutions to these issues.  

Group one listed lack of commitment from political parties and religious groups, difficulties faced by Councils to provide services to the people, lack of initiative from the community and reactive mindset of people as the main challenges. The group suggested strengthening the economic situation of the country, increase awareness among social issues arising from migration and urbanization, increasing commitment of political and religious leaders to address migration and urbanization positively and strengthen population consolidation programmes as possible solutions for these issues.


Group two identified lack of proper frameworks supporting the needs and rights of the elderly population and people with disabilities, lack of support systems, lack of awareness within the community about the needs and rights of people with disabilities, increased violence and discrimination against the elderly population and people with disabilities, absence of infrastructure and social services and a lack of sustained programmes to address their needs as the main challenges. The Group members said that although certain social protection allowances were paid by the Government, there is a huge gap in monitoring whether these allowances are being utilized to its original purpose. As possible solutions, the Group suggested conducting a more comprehensive assessment on the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities and empowering the Civil Society further to conduct more activities.


Group three stated that the main challenges facing in the area of gender equality include low representation of women in decision making level, negative information being spread by certain religious parties diminishing the role of women in society and lack of empowerment as the key challenges. In the area of sustainable development the group identified the current political situation of the country, political parties making decisions based on short term political and economic gains rather than considering the long term environmental impact of their actions, waste management crisis of the country, inability to harvest water for the hot season and lack of awareness among the community about sustainable development as the main challenges. They proposed increasing awareness and empowerment programmes, training women to build their capacity, establish proper waste management facilities, address stereotyping and empowering Civil Society as possible solutions.


The challenges identified by Group four included the impact of poverty on youth, lack of role models, deteriorating values in the society, limited employment opportunities and vocational/skills training opportunities. The group also felt that youth groups are not involved in development activities that directly impact their lives. The group also raised concerns about the lack of implementation of activities targeted at youth development, despite the fact that the required policies and budget are in place. As recommendations, the group suggested creating more job opportunities for youth, incorporating SRH information into policies, teacher training and the curriculum through foreign aid and help from experts, strengthening values through the education system and strengthening civic education and skills training programmes.


Group five, discussing on the topic of reproductive health, reproductive rights, morbidity and mortality, identified sustained family planning services, improvements in maternal and infant mortality rates, the continued push from UN agencies and the active involvement of the civil society as major achievements. However, the group stated that there was a lack of commitment from political leaders on these issues and a lack of general awareness among the public. The group also stated that religious and cultural perceptions about reproductive health has hindered provision of a comprehensive reproductive health services to people from all age groups. Furthermore, the group said that there was a decrease in the overall number of women who used contraceptive over the last few years. As recommendations for a way forward, the group suggested continued support from the civil society with increased involvement in RH issues; employ an inclusive approach to policy level and implementation, including SRH into the formal curriculum and taking necessary steps to desensitize RH issues to tackle the above problems.


During the discussion from other participants on the topic of reproductive health, the participants expressed their concerns about the increasing number of adolescents and youth involved in sexual behavior. The participants highlighted the raise in number of babies born out of wedlock, the number of babies who had been found murdered or thrown away and increase in unsafe abortions. Further, the participants stated that the community has to accept the fact that most adolescents and youth are actively involved in some form of sexual activity and there is an urgent need to create awareness and provide access to reproductive health services. The participants felt that the rights of youth and adolescents wishing to access reproductive health services are denied. The participants also felt that many people faced difficulties in consulting with specialized doctors and there have been cases where the confidentiality of the patient has been violated.







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Focus Group Discussions at Haa Dhaal Atoll

As part of the ICPD+20 Review process, a team including two members from the Department of National Planning and the National Consultant to the UNFPA traveled to Haa Dhaal Atoll from 21 – 22 September 2012. 

The team traveled to Haa Dhaal Atoll to get the feedback and opinion of Maldivians living in the Northern parts of the country. The islands visited during the trip were Hdh. Kulhudhufushi, Hdh. Neykurendhoo, Hdh. Kurinbee, Hdh. Nolhivaram and Hdh. Nolhivaramfaru.




The Focus Group Discussions were held with participants representing the Education Sector, Health Sector, Island Councils, Women’s Development Committees, Youth Development Committees, NGO’s and residents of the island. Most of the Focus Group Discussions were held at the Island Council Office and an average of 15 participants joined the discussion from each island. 



The participants from all islands identified infrastructure development such as development of jetties and harbours as the key achievements during the last four years. Some islands such as Nolhivaramfaru identified an increase in the GCE O’level pass rate as a key achievement. The capital island, Kulhudhufushi, cited many development achievements including land reclamation project, sewerage system, water plant system, housing units and road development projects. 

The education level in most islands is still very low despite near universal enrollment rate. Teachers face difficulties in delivering lessons to the pupils due to lack of resources such as libraries, science and computer labs and multimedia rooms. The ratio of girls and boys are quite equal and there is no discrimination between girls and boys in the school. Almost all the islands highlighted the deterioration of the students, especially boys. In Hdh. Kurinbee, the teachers expressed their concern about the number of students who chose to quit school in search of employment in the tourism sector. There were also concerns about the deteriorating values among the student population, and many teachers stated that students carried mobile phones and even smoked within the school premises and in the island. Teachers also identified limited opportunities for further studies and vocational training as a pressing issue for students completing their studies.



Health sector in all islands remained weak. The lack of trained doctors and access to medicines were the key issues. Some islands such as Hdh. Nolhivaram and Hdh. Nolhivaramfaru had no pharmacies established, and the islanders have to travel to the capital Hdh. Kulhudhufushi to get everyday medicine such as panadol and ORS. The Council of Hdh. Nolhivaram said that they have sent a proposal to the Ministry of Health to develop the island as a Maternal Health Hub in the Atoll since the island has the highest birth rate in the atoll. 

Lack of jobs and income earning opportunities was another key issue hindering the development of these islands. Most of the jobs are limited to civil service jobs and many are left without any other means to earn an income. All the participants from all the islands complained about the absence of a resort in the Atoll despite a number of islands having being leased out for resort development several years back. These islanders believe that opening a resort in the atoll will create numerous job opportunities for their youth and will resolve their unemployment issue. 

Women were noticed to be sidelined in most development activities, with their involvement limited to sweeping the islands and helping in clearing weeds for road development. Most of the women in Haa Dhaalu Atoll are housewives whose primary responsibility is taking care of their children and other family members. Women are well represented in the education and health sector, with most of them working as teachers and nurses. Some women weave coconut leaves (known in Dhivehi as “Fangiviyun”) to sell to resorts. Other women take up sewing or baking to earn an income although not in a sustainable manner. 



The youth of these islands remain challenged with limited job opportunities, funding for further studies, limited vocational and skills training programmes. Above all, drugs and substance abuse were noted to be quite significant among these youths. 

The elderly of the atoll lived with the families and continued an active lifestyle. Apart from the Old Age Pension given by the National Social Protection Agency, all the elderly’s depend on their families or manage their expenses on their own. 



When probed, the participants admitted to domestic violence against women being an issue, although the participants felt that the issue was private and should be resolved within the family unit. 

Apart from the capital island Kulhudhufushi, all the other islands reported that children with disabilities did not attend any form of mainstream schooling. Some of the reasons quoted were poverty, difficulties arising to the parent to take such children to school, lack of special education classes for disabled children and lack of trained teachers. 

Contraceptives were unavailable to all islands visited during the trip, apart from Kulhudhufushi. The women of these islands had limited knowledge on contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health.

The ICPD+20 resource team identified four relevant areas where the Atoll needed urgent attention. These areas are (i) creating jobs and other income earning opportunities (ii) strengthening the education sector, namely development of infrastructure such as preschools, laboratories, libraries, multimedia centers, extra classrooms, administrative rooms and halls, (iii) developing the health sector in terms of trained Doctors, access to specialist Doctors, access to medicine and laboratory services and (iv) creating awareness of various development issues. 



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Meeting with Youth Groups

The involvement of youth in the ICPD+20 review process is crucial for the Maldives since 31.9 percent of the country’s population is aged between 18 to 34 years (Census 2006). 

The Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports invited the ICPD+20 team to meet with a group of youths on 11 September 2012 at the Youth Center in Male’. During this meeting, a total of 32 school leavers, mainly from Center for Higher Secondary Education and Villa College were introduced to ICPD and asked to complete a questionnaire on ICPD issues to get their feedback. Information was also given on the Global Youth Forum which will be held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2012. 



Youth Groups working on the ICPD+20 Questionnaire for Youths

Most youth identified the lack of job opportunities in their desired fields and also limited income earning opportunities. Almost all of the participants agreed that the majority of the youth preferred White Collar Jobs and that the lack of interest to venture in vocational areas such as welding, electric wiring and construction work. While few participants felt that the Government involves them in the development process, majority felt that they were excluded from the planning and implementation of development activities that directly affected their lives. 



A group of young girls discuss the questionnaire

Further, the youth participants cited lack of higher education opportunities, namely funding solutions for further studies abroad. The ICPD team observed that certain members of the group resonated strict religious beliefs and stated that most of the issues facing our society today is due to the deviance of the community from islamic practices. The youth group further agreed, unanimously, that they were not safe from gang violence or sexual exploitation. With limited knowledge provided to them from Schools on reproductive health and sexual transmitted diseases, many identified the need for more awareness programmes on reproductive health issues. 


Meeting with Youth Groups



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Women and Development

The ICPD PoA stressed on important actions towards improving the life of women and girls. Actions were identified to improve their education, health and social status. The Government of Maldives has formulated many strategies and policies to empower women and assure equal rights to women and girls. Despite many efforts, women still lag behind men in almost all areas.  The Millennium Development Goal relating to empowerment of women, although on track, is still not fully achieved.

Women play a pivotal role in families and societies. It has been proven that investing in women has had direct positive influence on population and development efforts around the world. In most countries including the Maldives, women play an essential role in rearing children and managing families. Therefore, an investment in the improvement of their political, social, educational and health status is an investment made for the entire nation.

Encouraging girls to extend their education to higher levels delays marriage and subsequently push forward their child bearing age.  Delaying child bearing age reduces the number of pregnancies and ensures good maternal and infant health.

Women in Maldives are still under represented in the social and political arena. In the current Parliament (Majlis) only five out of seventy seven Parliament Members are female. Further, Female Unemployment Rate is almost three times higher than the Male Unemployment Rate. Of those women who are employed, many serve in traditional sectors such as the civil service, agriculture, health and teaching. In the Maldives, female headed households are more common than male headed households. Nevertheless, women are still vulnerable economically and socially than men.

Domestic Violence against Women is a significant issue all over the Maldives. According to studies, one of every three woman in the country has been abused sexually, physically or emotionally at least once in their life time. Several cases are being lodged continuously at the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights relating to child sex abuse, usually young girls. The lack of proper support facilities, laws and cultural beliefs instilled in the community and more recently, harsh religious ideologies have added to the situation.

The ICPD Beyond 2014 review aims to identify what the barriers are to equality and empowerment of women and girls. It will identify clear recommendations that governments will use to accelerate access to rights and will release the potential of women and girls

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What is the ICPD?

ICPD refers to a historic Conference held in Cairo in 1994, where 179 Governments committed to adopting a Programme of Action (PoA) to deliver a more equal and sustainable world. 

The key areas identified and addressed in the PoA are poverty and inequality, women and girls, youth, reproductive rights, environmental sustainability, ageing, urbanization and migration.

The ICPD identified connections between human rights, population dynamics and economic development. 

The ICPD Programme of Action highlighted the relationship between gender inequality and poverty, poor health, poor educational attainment and sustainable economic development. It recognised that women and young people are often less able to access their human rights and less likely to gain from the benefits of economic development and that countries needed to focus on the human rights and needs of women and young people.

Since their original commitment was made in Cairo in 1994 governments of member states have re-affirmed their commitment to action on the ICPD Programme of Action every five years. The Maldives has also prepared review reports on the implementation status of the PoA, once every five years since the conference. 

The Government-represented by the Department of National Planning, Ministry of Finance and Treasury and funded by the UNFPA is currently undertaking a cumulative review of the progress achieved in the last twenty years. This review report will identify the key achievements and the areas that require urgent public policy for beyond 2014.