8 March 2016, Male'; Empowering a woman is empowering a society. Educate a girl, and she educates the society. Offer a platform for a woman to speak, and she speaks for the many women whose voice have gone unheard. Empowerment of women is transformative; women are agents of change and the society thrives through effective participation of women.
Today, the international community has Pledged for Parity to mark the International Women’s Day. The prerequisite for parity is equality. Equality of participation, equality of power dynamics and equality for personal development. Despite the immeasurable contributions of women to our societal development, women are expected to prove their worth at home, in employment and in the provision of professional expertise.
The premise and promise of gender equality and women’s active role in society is deep-rooted in Islam. Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) showed by example the active participation of women through respect, protection and participation of women in daily life. This is where our advocacy comes from. It is not a recent school of thought as some believe.
This year, we celebrate International Women’s Day on the heels of the adoption of the historic Agenda 2030. It is an agenda that reaffirms the centrality of gender equality and advancement of women in achieving sustainable development and the future we want. The Agenda holds the promise for a better world. A world where every girl can truly realize her potential, free from violence and free from discrimination. With the blueprints now drawn up, implementation of these goals must remain a top priority.
The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has already embarked on this journey, with the formation of the National Committee and the Technical Committee for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It is the Government’s strong conviction to integrate the goals and targets into our national development plan.
It is time that we approach development policy from a gender perspective if we are to achieve a “planet 50:50”. For this to happen, we need to ensure that women’s voices are heard; women need to be voted for and not be mere voters. Indeed, a greater percentage of women need to be elected and appointed to decision-making positions. Most importantly, we need to ensure that there is affirmative action in place. Why? Because it will not happen naturally. However, to bring a paradigm shift to mindsets of age-old stereotyping, we need to cultivate a culture that advocates women’s participation in the halls of the parliament and political offices. Prejudice needs to be discarded, once and for all!
The pretext to tolerate any forms of violence against women and girls on the basis of tradition and culture has had its time. But no more. President Yameen’s Government maintains a zero-tolerance policy on violence against women. Through the enactment Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Maldives has ensured legal safeguards for women against any discrimination. Prevention remains a cornerstone of these laws.
Gender equality is not just a moral imperative. Nor should it be viewed merely as an obligation we have to uphold under national and international frameworks. We pursue gender equality because it is the right thing to do. Today, let us once again commit to act and speak up for gender parity. The promise of a better future lies in the pledge for parity. The promise of equality is as much a right of girls and women as it is for boys and men. Let us commit to revive the hope of a better future for all!