Women in the workplace: Why it matters

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I began to promote women’s rights and democracy in the Maldives as a result of my own experiences in the world of work. After completing my Master’s degree in finance abroad, I returned to my country with the hope and optimism to bring new innovations into the financial sector of the Maldives. However, during my job interviews I found people being more interested in my “family achievements” than my academic ones.

These events strongly influenced my decision to start an advocacy for women’s empowerment within my country. I went on to assist a group of dynamic ladies to create an NGO called Women On Boards (WOB) in the Maldives, the first NGO advocating for gender diversity and the importance of women at all levels of the economy. My initiatives and focus to promote the importance of women's economic empowerment and to encourage women to take up leadership roles is now recognised nationwide.

I served as the Secretary General of WOB for nearly two years and focused on creating awareness for gender equality, as well as the important role of Small Island Developing (SID) States. I believe that the Maldives being a SID does not exclude it from pathways of economic development.

WOB became the first NGO in the Maldives to openly advocate for women in leadership. In the Maldives the issue of under-representation of women was less spoken of, but with this campaign the whole of the Maldives is recognising the need to address this issue. More people are confident that women can lead all spheres of our economy and young people are very supportive of this notion.

I have directed more than 20 awareness events (including some to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and assisted in introducing several capacity development training programmes within the Maldives. Today, WOB has over 400 members, more than 12 corporate partners, a large number of volunteers and is a leading NGO in the Maldives. Moreover, my work at WOB has been recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and I was among the 60 recipients of the Queen's Young Leaders Award 2016, which recognises young people who are changing their communities.

After nearly two years of work in the arena, I set up an NGO named Women & Democracy in the Maldives. The NGO, currently in its pilot phase, will highlight the issue of under-representation of women in political leadership. This NGO intends to empower women in political leadership and will promote the essential role of women in sustaining and building a democracy. I believe that the political arena is where we find the most evident proof of under-representation in the Maldives and even in the world. It is high time that we start to advocate for this issue and assist women in acquiring the necessary tools to successful participate in all aspects of the Maldivian political process.

I passionately believe that democracy empowers people. It empowers me to be a good leader and to stand up for what’s right. I care about free speech; about voting to express my passion and about having a greater stake in the development and peace of my own community.