Change Makers

Woman on Board aims for getting more women on board in Maldives

Empowering woman leads to change in the society itself. That motivated a group of dynamic and charismatic ladies from Maldives to take the initiative of launching Women on Boards (WOB), an NGO with an objective to inspire and empower the next generation women of Maldives by unleashing their economic power.

Maldives ranked 128th out of 190 countries in the world when it comes to female representation in the Parliament, according to Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of 2015. Manifestation of gender inequality happens in every sphere of its society. These factors have influenced Safaath Ahmed, a Maldivian herself, to spearhead the organization with a strong desire to change the unjust conditions prevailing in her nation.

Woman of dreams

 Safaath Ahmed, Secretary General of Women on Boards (WOB) NGO, herself has been a victim of unjust inequality. After completing her master’s degree in finance from abroad, she came back to her country with the hope and optimism to bring innovations in the financial sector of the Maldives. But during her job interviews, she found people being more interested in her “family achievements” than her academic ones.

She says, “People were more curious to know about my marriage than my degrees and job experience. This is because women are expected to have only one dimensional life which consists of just ‘family responsibilities” and nothing else. For women the degree of achievement does not depend on her grades or education, but it depends on the age at which she got married and number of children she bears.”

This incident has strongly influenced her to work towards an NGO to promote woman in decision-making positions. It has triggered her idea of starting something for woman empowerment and standing for all those women who were facing the same problem as she did in her interviews.

She believes that the Maldivian economy, let alone the global economy, will not thrive without the empowerment of women. She dreams of seeing one day where women- led businesses will flourish, astounding female politicians will bring great democracy, and perhaps a woman president will lead the Maldives towards becoming a first world nation.

‘Woman on Board’

Women on Boards have a handful of dedicated efforts towards bringing more women in top hierarchy positions at all levels inside the country, which can lead towards a more efficient and developed nation.

In Maldives, women face little discrimination in basic aspects of life such as education, health, and survival; and yes, women’s labor force participation is high; but gender inequality still continues to exist in elevated levels of unequal power distribution where women are faced with greater handicap than men. To make the society aware of these facts Women on Board run workshops, seminars etc to create awareness for the importance of women’s economic participation.

They also organize various workshops and seminars for women to gain confidence and find their leadership abilities. Moreover they also felicitate the participants with annual awards to give them recognition and gradually help them to gain self esteem.

Recently they have launched their atolls campaign awareness with atolls agent program (a program via which an agent is selected from each atoll to create awareness for this cause nationwide). Till date the organization have over 400 members and about 50 volunteers along with 12 corporate partners.

 So far, so good

The organization today has been able to reach many people and engage the newest generation, who are gradually going to be the future of Maldives, to believe in this great cause of woman empowerment. The team thinks of this as itself being a great achievement for them.

Safaath says, “In the Maldives the issue of under representation of women was less spoken of but with this campaign they believe that the whole of Maldives is recognizing the need to address this issue. More are confident that women can lead all spheres of our economy and the youth are supportive of this notion even more. What better than this! After all a true achievement for any organization, who are working for a cause, is not just in receiving awards or noble prizes. But their true achievement is when the cause is getting acknowledged and revolution is been seen.”

She adds, “This is just the beginning of my dream to save to my economy. The Maldivian economy, let alone the global economy will not survive neither exist without the empowerment of women. Gender equality is the antidote to prosper our global economy together.”

“There’s no tool for development more effective than empowerment of women,” they say. Same is the philosophy that Safaath is working for.