Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations H E Ambassador Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed under Agenda Item 62 Advancement of Women at the Third Committee of the Sixty Fourth Session of the General Assembly, New York, 13 October 2009, Tuesday.


Mr. Chairman,


The Maldives would like to take this opportunity to express appreciation to the Secretary General for his reports under this agenda item. On a broader note, let me also convey that the Maldives is very encouraged by the increased attention by the United Nations to address the gaps in gender equality. In this regard, the Maldives welcomes the recent statement from the Security Council calling to ensure the full participation of women in all stages of conflict resolution and peace-building and more importantly the unanimous adoption of the resolution on 30 September that called for immediate action to protect civilians, including women and children, from all forms of sexual violence.


Mr. Chairman,


At the national level, the Maldives continues to empower its women. Attempts to institutionalize gender equality over the last years have proved successful at some levels. To name a few, the new Constitution of the Maldives, enacted last year, has removed the traditional gender bar that prevented women from competing for the office of President. The policy of equal pay for equal work ensures that wage gaps do not exist in the employment sector.


Despite these progressive steps, the journey to the full realization of institutional and de jure equality for women in all aspects of life looks long and daunting. A number of facts serve as evidence of which let me mention a few.


Fact 1: mainstreaming gender equality in the developmental agenda requires extensive institutional advancements. As such, tasks aimed at gender development are hindered by the extreme lack of capacity and resources.


Fact 2: Maldivian women are among the most emancipated in the Islamic world. Economic empowerment of women has played a crucial role in this achievement. Nonetheless, the mixed effects of globalisation on our fragile economy has widened gender disparities, primarily in sectors that offer limited opportunities for women’s participation. For instance, despite the booming tourism industry that offers attractive employment opportunities for all, geography and culture poses challenges for women in taking up such employment.


Fact 3: Various steps to promote equity, protection against violence, economic security and balancing work and family for women are being undertaken at community level. Despite these efforts the Maldives has also started experiencing the negative effects of extremism. Marriage of underage girls is now an emerging issue in Maldivian society. These mind sets, once again, hinder the effective realization of the Government’s objectives of gender development activities.


Fact 4: The removal of the constitutional gender bar is certainly an accomplishment but its effectiveness cannot be fully understood as women’s traditional role in public life is very limited. Economic and social security constraints still restrict women from pursuing the dual worlds of private and public life simultaneously.


Mr. Chairman,


As we mark the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this year, the Maldives reaffirms it commitment to fully realize the objectives of the Convention. In this regard, the Government is focused on reforming two very crucial sectors. For effective and sustainable gender development, legal prescriptions that prevent women’s advancement ought to be erased, along with effective judicial reform. An overhaul of some judicial practices is required to fully ensure that the justice system is approachable to all without prejudice. The Maldives is confident that progress in these two areas will guarantee the effective enforcement of our international obligations. Such development, nonetheless, can only be achieved through international technical cooperation that is aimed at modernizing the country’s legal framework.


Mr. Chairman,


The global financial crisis has left unimaginable set backs to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This is exacerbated for small developing states such as the Maldives and for its women. The Maldives still has a long way to achieve Goal 3 of the MDGs. Thus, a concerted effort at reforming the global economy is necessary for all States to successfully achieve the MDGs that contain glaring impacts on the advancement of women.


As such, on behalf of my delegation, I am pleased to welcome the decision by the General Assembly last month to set up a unified separate body for the protection of the rights of women. The Maldives firmly believes that the new body will bring a more focused and well-coordinated approach to global efforts to advance women’s rights. It is no doubt that the recent unprecedented outcomes by the United Nations have amplified the voice of women worldwide. I would like to express my Government’s firm commitment and support to all efforts that are directed towards the empowerment of women.


As a former Secretary General once stated; “When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life”.


Thank you Mr. Chairman.