Publication | Report/Paper

Qualitative Assessment: Perceptions about Women’s Participation in Public Life in the Maldives

Gender equality and women’s empowerment remain a significant challenge in the Maldives. A new report from International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES), titled “Qualitative Assessment: Perceptions about Women’s Participation in Public Life in the Maldives,” examines the root causes of negative perceptions toward women in decision-making roles in the Maldives, including broader societal attitudes toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The study, using focus group discussions and individual interviews, was conducted from February-March 2015. One hundred thirty-one women and men on six islands and the capital of Male’ shared their perceptions of gender roles, women in leadership and women’s participation in public life.

The study found that the primary role of women is perceived as in the household, as mothers and caretakers. All other activities are viewed as secondary. Female participants said that household and childcare responsibilities limited their participation in community activities; however, women’s involvement in community activities and public life was evident in all communities visited. In some communities, women were more active than men, particularly when a significant number of men worked away from their home island.

The study also revealed that particular religious-based interpretations of women’s role in society can limit their ability to participate in public life. Nevertheless, men supported women’s participation in public life in a number of the communities visited, and women continued to aspire for their right to equal participation with men in decision making and public life for community and national development.