Ms. Khadeeja Aufiyau
Attaché, Permanent Mission of the Maldives to the UN
at the General Discussion on Advancement of Rights of Women and Girls
3 October 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chair
Let me begin by thanking the Secretary-General for his report on this agenda item. I am confident that his report will generate insightful discussions and debate towards the advancement and fulfillment of women’s rights.
The pursuit of gender equality is not merely a noble cause, but a quintessential human right, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We stand here today, calling for a transformative change. Yet we often fail to fully grasp how deeply embedded the fair and equal treatment of women and girls is in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its all-encompassing goals.
While women represent approximately 50% of the global population it is concerning that this 50% is not being adequately included nor being accounted for, when it comes to equality in terms of opportunities. It is equally concerning that humanity as a whole is being deprived of the collective benefits that gender equality stands to offer, due to these mishaps.
Despite the positive developments that have taken place over the years, the sad reality is that it will still take a monumental effort to empower women and achieve gender equality. Our current pace dictates that it will take a staggering 257 years to achieve gender equality in the workplace and globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. We don’t need to look any further than the General Debate of the 78th session – only 21 women leaders spoke, down from 23 the previous year. The year before that – at the 76th session - it was just 18!
It is imperative that we provide women the platform to voice their concerns and share their unique perspectives and lived experiences. It is equally important that we listen to them, and indeed be guided by their wise counsel.
The Maldives in recent history has made significant strides in the advancement of the rights of women and girls both at the multilateral arena and in its national capacity. Importantly, during Maldives’ tenure as President of the 76th General Assembly under His Excellency Abdulla Shahid – the presidency of hope - there had been several key milestones achieved in mainstreaming gender equality. One of which was the establishment of the UNGA Platform of Women Leaders which brings women leaders to the forefront of discussing initiatives to continually promote a more gender-equal multilateral sphere – which has now been successively held for two consecutive years. Another pivotal moment was the establishment of the International Day of Women in Diplomacy to be marked on 24 June every year – a landmark resolution led by the Maldives and co-sponsored by 191 member States, illuminating the lived experiences of women diplomats, and fostering a space for empathy and shared understanding.
Reflecting on our achievements in the national capacity, the Gender Equality Act came into force in 2016, which gave recognition to both, direct and indirect gender-based discrimination. The Act recognizes both direct and indirect gender-based discrimination and provides safeguards for women by mandating the establishment of workplace mechanisms to report cases of gender-based discrimination. The Gender Equality Act has been further reinforced by the National Gender Policy of 2019 and the subsequent adoption of the Gender Equality Action Plan in 2022. Furthermore, there have been greater incentives for women to contest for elected office, with the amendment to the Decentralisation Act that allocated 33% of island and city council seats to women. Also in 2019, the decades of sole male representation was overturned with the appointment of two women Justices to the Supreme Court a first for the Maldives.
The Maldives has also secured gender parity among its Heads of Missions. On 21 October 2021, the Maldives successfully concluded the CEDAW Committee’s review session, reiterating the government’s firm commitment to implement and strengthen measures to end domestic violence, gender-based violence, and discrimination against women and girls and to fully meet the targets of SDG5. The amendments brought about to the Sexual Offences Act in 2021 are indicative of the government’s commitment in this regard. As for education, studies compiled by the Ministry of Education and international agencies report that girls consistently outperform boys in academic results, building foundations to promote STEM education specifically for girls and thereby, increasing employment opportunities and experience. These initiatives are the result of conscious decision-making and targeted approaches.
In closing, let us remind ourselves that we must not halt or falter our momentum and our stride towards achieving a gender equal world, for that is our promised land of sustainable development - where peace and prosperity prevail for us all. Let us show our solidarity in persisting bold commitments; let us affirm solidarity in resisting futile backlash; and pursue to accomplish the advancement of the rights of women and girls, all around the world.
I thank you all.