Women are the bedrock of society. The Maldives is a destination with elements of a strong matriarchal society in history; our island nation flourished under the rule of Sultanas and Queens in the days of old. This age is no different, with women continuing to be the heads of households while simultaneously spearheading innovative workplaces, and today is the day to take the time to celebrate the capable, powerful, and talented women in Maldivian society. We at Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC / Visit Maldives) would like to extend our appreciation and gratitude to all Maldivian women today, the often unsung heroes of society, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2022.
The historic role of women in the workplace
Women in the Maldives have always been spirited, ambitious, and strong-willed, as displayed by their tendency to excel at whatever work they choose to do. As with most other nations, women were historically expected to only take care of the ‘housework’ and ‘soft’ jobs, but in the Maldives, this translated into something different. Our main source of income (prior to 1972 and the inception of the tourism industry) was fishing. There may not have been any female anglers in the Maldives back then, but the work of cleaning, smoking, and preparing the catch for consumption, bartering, or sale has always been the work of women. This led to women in the Maldives long-being a partner in acquisition of finances - men and women playing equally important roles in generating household income.
Women, Tourism and MMPRC
With the advent of tourism in the Maldives 50 years ago, this has changed, with more women interested in and taking up important positions in workplaces in travel, hospitality, and tourism.
At MMPRC, we have successfully constructed a gender positive environment because we believe in the capacity of women to enhance, enrich, and elevate this industry. There are 17% more female workers at MMPRC than there are male workers, and not just in junior, soft, or ‘feminine’ positions; 67% of the Heads of Departments in MMPRC are women; and 87% of the marketing department comprise of self-driven and tenacious female workers.
“Having devoted most of my career working for this corporation, it has always given me great pride that most of our teams are led by strong, creative, and diligent women who have dedicated themselves to marketing our beautiful destination. It has been a great pleasure to watch how the times have changed so fast over the past few years, with more women joining the tourism industry in different roles. Maldivian women have always been strong, and they have been vital to building the socio-economic fabric of this nation. This is evident from our history and it is repeating in a more profound way in our present and hopefully our future too. This is all due to the continued effort by our government, industry leaders, and individuals to cast aside long-held prejudices, overcome challenges and break biases,” said Fathimath Afra, Chief Marketing Officer of MMPRC.
An era of change
Creating thoughtful discourse about gender parity in the Maldives took on a new stride with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration. With key policy reforms and the abolishment of practices that had long propagated inequality in Maldivian society, women in the Maldives have never had as many opportunities as now to thrive. The evolution of the consideration of roles traditionally played by women has also led to brand new ideas about the role of women, especially in the tourism sector.
"There is no job in any industry that a woman cannot excel at, but we must accept that there is still a gender disparity in the Maldives tourism industry. For instance, only 12% of resort workers are women, but there are a lot of women who are involved in the industry in a myriad of ways. So first, we must change the way we count and gather data on this. Only then can we begin to truly close the gap, and this is just one of the avenues that we are actively working on to improve the roles of women in the tourism industry. MMPRC makes the pledge today to continue to uphold the values of gender parity within our workplace," said Thoyyib Mohamed, CEO and MD of MMPRC.
Taking action to build a brighter, better and more equitable tomorrow
Over the past three years alone, the Maldives has reached new milestones in social equality and gender parity. It started with President Solih’s historic decision in 2019 to appoint female Justices to the Supreme Court for the first time in the nation’s history. This was followed by the monumental reform to the Decentralisation Act, allocating one third of all local council seats to women. This move was celebrated throughout the nation, as women were finally offered avenues to hold key positions in governance.
In addition to this, President Solih’s administration paid special attention to reforming rules and regulations to better the lives and livelihoods of Maldivian women, notably in endorsing policy reforms such as the administration’s Gender Equality Action Plan, as part of the ‘National Resilience and Recovery Plan (NRR) 2020–2022’. The plan includes measures such as; increasing the number of women in leadership positions in local government by 40% by 2025 and in the judiciary by 25%; providing services such as daycare; initiating gender-responsive budgeting; and revising national data systems to include disaggregation of data by gender and age.
Although we have achieved much in working to create a more equal environment in our homes and workplaces, we still have a long way to go. Our efforts are a continuous journey of upholding the reforms presented by policies, taking action to back up promises made on platforms, and sustaining the progress we have earned through the sacrifices of our ancestors. We must work together, at all levels to ensure that the bias that is always looming and present does not break the gains we have made in ensuring women are provided better opportunities at all junctures of life. Let's walk the talk, and ensure that we stand our ground to reach the true potential of any nation, which cannot be achieved without the full involvement of our women.