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INVICTUS EDI TION: IN VIN CIB L E VOLUME VI

BILLABONG HIGH EPS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HUMANITIES DEPARTMENT


CONTENTS

3

FOREWORD

4

IN HER EYES

5

PROFILES OF INV INCIBLES 6

EVA ABDULLA

8

AIMINATH AZZA

10

AISHATH ALI

12

DR. AISHATH SHAZMA

14

DR. AMAL ALI

16

HISAAN HUSSEIN

18

SHADHIYA IBRAHIM

20

SHAHINDHA ISMAIL

22

MARIYAM WASEEMA

23

WHAT WOMEN’ S DAY MEANS TO ME...

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STRONGHOLD OF GENDER STEREOTYPES: AN EXPERIMENT

EDITOR IN CHIEF Ainy Niyaz Yoosuf | 12A STUDENAT EDITORS Fathmath Malsa Maumoon | 12A Naiha Ali Naeem | 12A Ishi Jha | 11A ORGANIZER Ahmed Shauban Ibrahim | 12A

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Foreword Mariyam Gishau (HoD Humanities)

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will,” wrote the famous English author Charlotte Brontë, in her masterpiece Jane Eyre. In order to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, Humanities Department of Billabong High undertook a project of collecting profiles of women in our society who are no birds, no net ensnares them, who are beautiful, invincible, independent with ironclad will that breaks boundaries and is unafraid to ruffle feathers and thus, are today, an inspiration for all. These women reflect the true nature of the quote by Bronte and stands as testament to its practicality. The students who were involved in interviewing and developing this edition of Invictus did so with so much vigor because after every interview, they not only felt motivated but also hopeful, that even they can aspire to achieve what they want to when they grow up. That they should not be afraid because they are girls. This year’s women’s day have indeed been special. Many changes had come our way, both structurally with the government introducing 6 months paid maternity for civil servants, big corporations signifying the importance of female health through policies introduced such as the GST exemption on maternity, sanitary pads and tampons and free access to these items. We have come a long way from just accepting roses and cakes on women’s day and therefore now can aspire to reach for greater, more vital necessities and rights that women desire. This involves celebration of women who inspire us, having the uncomfortable discussion on issues that plague us, identifying the obstacles women face such as abuse, harassment, pay gap and segregation. But to combat the real issues of gender inequality, the core component that needs tackling can only be done through Education. To develop a society which is balanced for the better, we need the men to be onboard as well.

Therefore this year our department also undertook a campaign of having our boys from grades 6 to 12 and male teachers express their opinion on Women’s Day and identify the importance of women in their lives. After all it’s crucial for men (and women) to learn to value women, not just as how they see women but also how we see ourselves, in order to respect and accept the changes taking place in the society. What we aim to build is a safe space for our girls to grow and dream and for our boys to know the privileges they have and to use it to understand that the issues women present are not matters that needs to be trivialized or belittled; that our school is a place which allows our children to grow and become the best they possibly could. I want to thank the management for always assisting us to go further every year and always believing that more should be done for women’s day than the cake/ rose celebrations, my entire department for their constant support in every venture we undertake and doing it as a team. I also want to thank my army of girls in grade 12 and 11 who are growing up to be so strong and wonderful and ready to push any boundaries to achieve what they desire, whose hardwork and dedication brought this entire project to fruition. I am proud of the boys who worked on this project as well because they dedicated so much time and effort on to this revealing their commitment for real change in whatever capacity. This shows the importance of all of us supporting each other and pulling each other up rather than tearing each other down. And that’s how we get things done.

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IN HER EYES Ishi Jha, 11A

Her eyes, They held a door, a cover, Hiding her pleads, her cries Echoing in the dark void of her feelings, over and over. Her eyes, They held a message, a sign, “Please save me from the lies,” “Please take me back to what I left behind.” Her eyes, They now hold a spark, a fire, This is not how she flies Her dreams are more than just a quest for her desires. Her eyes, They are regaining their strength, the power Her aura is different, this time it’s not a disguise, She wasn’t born to cower. Her eyes don’t just see, They tell the story of how, Everyday she wages a war, hopeless, Suppressed thoughts, clueless Of the many others like her, waiting for the chance Waiting for the opportunity to rise, They say “be the change you wish to see”, So she steps out. Her eyes, this time aren’t the black hole that sucks in every emotion They add the fuel to the fire, Igniting in the eyes of every woman. They were born to soar, take flight Not to spend life counting the days of their plight. And if life is a fight, they’ll be the soldiers not the bystanders.

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PROFILES OF

INVINCIBLES 5

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Eva Abdulla

Ainy Niyaz Yoosuf - 12A

Spending 10 years working vigorously towards expanding the role and involvement of women in the political spectrum, Eva Abdulla is a beloved member of Galolhu Uthuru Dhaairaa of the People’s Majlis. Being one of the strongest and active females in the society, it is with no doubt that we were more than honoured to have interviewed her for International Women’s Day 2019 and gather her perception on the society that we all live in. For Ms. Eva, the concept of ‘Women empowerment’ was undoubtedly described as the ability of “being able to make their own choices, wherever and however they wanted and having the facilities and the accessibility to implement those choices.” Knowing that women have been denied of having the appropriate opportunities to achieve their goals, as an MP it is seen that she and many others are committed in bringing change so that women have the liberty they deserve.

When asked whether her experiences in the parliament had changed over time compared to when she had first started working, Ms. Eva highlighted how some aspects of her work life did involve modification while others remained the same. “When I first started it was difficult to cope as a younger woman” she said when describing her first experience in the political field, surrounded mostly around men in the parliament. But she did not fail to mention that as time went on she became more confident of herself and what she had aimed for the society, “I’ve gotten more comfortable with addressing whatever issues that come my way”. Along with the positive outcome, the experiences she had as a young woman of the parliament had remained the same. “Specifically as a woman, I get exactly the same kinds of attacks as I did 10 years ago”, however with reassurance, and confidence in her voice, she quickly added “my ability to withstand harassment or abuse had become a bit stronger, at least publicly.” It is without a doubt that a woman in her status would have to make some hard decisions and so when asked what the hardest decision she had made professionally was, we got the answer, “I’ve had to cast some votes, that I would rather not have cast. I’ve had to make political decisions or go along with certain political decisions that I would rather not have had to in a perfect world.” Further, she informed us she would like to believe it was “made for the greater good and definitely for a more better and democratic future.” In order to strive for what she advocated for, it is without question that she knew the obstacles women have to face everyday, fiercely tackling the issues, not with knowledge alone but with experience in it as well. She stated that women “bear a disproportionate amount of burden in looking after the family.” She then proceeded to explain the reason as to why she used the word ‘burden’ “it sounds like a negative word, I don’t mean it like that, it’s just that we take the bigger load of it. I find that even when our partners actually carry out household tasks, it’s us whose organizing it.”

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The common stigma that is placed on a women’s role is to take care of the family. According to her, this ideology is ingrained into the minds of young girls and by the Family.

“Families are reluctant to allow or let women into the public arena. Because they see the kind scrutiny and the harassment that women in the public do face. We are scrutinized not just our jobs. Everyday there would be a comment on our looks, our clothes, whether it is good or bad, I don’t think it is necessary.” The question on how women can be encouraged to

She, however, believed that if women work harder

join more professions such as the one that Ms.Eva is in,

they will become aware of their capabilities and there

was sentimental for her. She explained how powerful the

will come a time when those around them, will see

opinion of others as well as the structures around a woman

them as equals. She says, “I am one of the most senior

can influence the choices they make. She identifies this

MPs in the parliament and i think especially over the

with women involvement in politics by describing it to be

last 5 years, my male colleagues have learned not to

“disheartening, as the number of women is far too few across

underestimate me whether it is verbally or physically.”

the political spectrum and we should have encouraged more

She joyously ended with the statement, “ I think they’ve

women to run for the parliament this time.” She continues

learnt that I’ll give as good as a i can get, that i won’t

explain this, “For a lot of women, I think right now, especially

back down, that i’ll be one of the loudest voices there

over the five years again is that the scrutiny into private lives,

if needed.”

I think that is what discourages a lot of women.” She then responded with certainty that the key obstacle women face

Before ending the interview we requested Ms. Eva

is financial stability. “A lot of women or rather not enough

that she provide us with a message to girls everywhere,

women are not financially independent enough to run a big

who aspire to one day lead the same as she and she

campaign, to be able to take the seat.” She then proceeds to

gleefully replied “Do it!” She then continued to say,

say that, “Politics in the Maldives unfortunately has remained

“I’ve believed that politics is a force for the good if you

very much money politics over the many many years not just

make it. It’s not politics that’s dirty, its dirty people who

the last ten years. So that discourages women from running.”

make it dirty. So if you want to clean up your country, whether it’s establishing democratic norms, whether

Upon asking, whether she believed that people may have

it’s encouraging more women into the public field,

neglected giving her votes particularly for being a woman,

whether it’s fighting corruption, whether it’s fighting

we received the phenomenal response: “I am not someone

injustice, politics is the strongest and most powerful

who believes that an education is enough to make you a good

force you can use for good and I think, formidable

public servant,” But for women she believes there were even

girls becoming formidable women leading the country

further obstacles, “in the public eye, women have to be far

would be the best thing a country would have.”

more hardworking and far more qualified for the job than the men they run against.” This is a very significant point made because it shows us that discrimination does exists categorically in the workforce as women would have to work substantially harder and have more qualifications than a man for the same post. Ms. Eva had also highlighted that,

“a lot of women speak to me and say ‘but i don’t even have a degree, i don’t have this etc,’ I’ve never heard a man question himself like that, so the expectation is a lot more on women.”

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Aminath Azza Fathmath Malsa Maumoon & Naiha Ali Naeem 12A

Aminath Azza is a widely popular and incredibly loved leading teacher in one of the most oldest education institutions in the Maldives. She’s been affiliated with Aminiya School for over 30 years, both as a student and teacher. It was an amazing opportunity to have conducted an interview with such a woman on the special occasion of women’s day.

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Despite this, when asked what the hardest thing she

When asked, what women empowerment meant to her, she gave the response,

had to professionally was, she responded with “I actually did not face any hardships in my profession.” This view is

“In my dictionary, it means equal rights for both women and men.”

further cemented by her response when asked is there a notable difference among students when female teachers are teaching in comparison to male, she said “Yes. I have

Further, we asked what her greatest achievement in her

been with the girls for the past 20 years, the students seem

profession was, for which she responded, “working in Aminiya

better behaved when its a female teacher. They try to be

school for the past 20+ years and being a leading teacher & a

more naughty when it comes to a male teacher so they

teacher, especially cos it was for the girls, I consider that a big

prefer the female teachers.” This may be due to the fact that

achievement.” Over here we can notice that a big emphasis

Aminiya has traditionally been an all girls school.

was put on specifically for the ‘girls’ that she taught which

Last but not least, we requested that she give a message

shows that she she felt that her greatest achievement was

to all women who aspire to lead the same way as her, and

being part of the upbringing of these girls lives. Additionally,

she said,

she also put grave importance on the many years that she spent in the school with all the kids, that can be seen in her

“be very punctual always, be very loyal to your job, be very good and kind to people. You’ll face a lot of obstacles in life, but have a way of going through the obstacles. Life is full of ups and downs, so we have to be very careful with whatever we do.”

response,“I studied in Aminiya for 10 years and worked here for 20 years, all together that’s 30 years at the same place so thats my greatest achievement.” This shows that being a teacher and educating individuals is one of the most notable things one can do. As per Ms Azza’s point of view, on obstacles faced by women in society, she expressed that “They consider women as very weak people” and that “they think that women cant handle the jobs” and with confidence stated that “the weakness is that the society considers it that way.” This shows us that, it is the ideologies ingrained into the minds that of people in the Maldives which proves to be an obstacle in women empowerment. She believes that despite having evidentiary “capable women principles” that “society stills feels that women are weak as a result the minority is still given to women, even as leaders in our country.” This proves that despite some women being uplifted into positions of authority, they are still marginalized as capable leaders of society due to the unchanging attitudes towards gender roles by the majority.

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Aishath Ali Fathimath Eafa Rameez -12A

Aishath Ali is one of the most significant women in the education sector of the Maldives. She has spent 18 years working in this field, and therefore it was an honour to interview this woman who is leading our current education system as a part of our Women’s Day event, and gain an understanding of her experiences and how they have come to shape both her opinions and her life. Starting her tenure as the Education Minister, she concentrated on the wellbeing of the student community of Maldives by collaborating with UNICEF to create a Food Guide in 2019, and also by establishing an Anti-Bullying Policy dedicated to protecting the security of each and every student in the country. During the interview, when asked about what women empowerment means to her, Ms Aishath said that, “Women empowerment means giving women the kind of power that cannot be taken away from them.” She further explained that rather than it being a “battle with the opposite sex,” women empowerment should instead involve “accepting that both men and women have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes” and that everyone should embrace “your uniqueness.” Additionally, she says that women empowerment can be promoted by educating women, inculcating good values and equipping them with life skills. On the topic of facing criticism as a woman in her profession, she answered, “fortunately, my work circle involves men who are champions of gender mainstreaming.” She expressed that as a woman in her field, she has yet to experience a situation where she was made to think that women and power were two incompatible concepts, saying that “I have been quite lucky” but also conveyed in dismay that though this might have been the case, she still did meet many men who had the perception that “females can’t do certain things, females’ decisions aren’t that important and they cannot be involved in the decision-making process.”

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However, it is without a doubt that both in her lengthy career

Over her years in the education sector, there is not one

and also as a woman, she has still seen situations where

single achievement that she considers to be the greatest, but

women continue to face obstacles in society. This particular

she does admit that “being a teacher” is one of them, because

question we raised was one that resonated deeply with Ms

she had the chance to make “some kind of difference” in

Aishath, as she informed us passionately that discrimination

the lives of each student, whether it be secondary, higher

against women exists at a much higher level because women

secondary or teachers she trained. “I got to touch the lives of

still face the issue of the glass ceiling, and how they struggle

my students,” she further explains, tone filled with nostalgia

to break it. “You can see them working at the grass-root level,

and sentimentality, “I have seen people change, due to some

very few women are at very top level,” she noted. In turn shows

effect that I had on their lives.” Another achievement that she

that although attitudes towards women in the workforce

mentioned was the book that she had published and the one

are changing and they are allowed more opportunities than

that she is currently writing, and she says that she had never

before, it is not the case on a micro perspective as women are

even considered herself to be a writer, but that she had tried

still prevented from advancing in the workplace.

because people around her had supported her to achieve her dreams. She added that this particular book written

Ms Aishath spoke about how the education system had

on the history of Maldivian education would be a “special

changed over time in favour of women. “Gradually it has been

achievement,” because it would stay even after she dies, and

improving,” she says, pointing out the work of First President

people will still be able to learn from it later on.

Mohamed Ameen Didi in the advancement of women in the

Last but not least, we requested Ms Aishath to give a

Maldivian society, and referred to how women had actually

message to all the girls who one day wish to lead the same

been prevented from going to recieve an education before

way she does, and her brilliant response was, “You can be

he had made it compulsory. “There is a complete reversal,”

anything.” To spend your early years learning and cultivating

she says, explaining that “you’ll see more girls coming out of

good habits is important, as the more you grow older, the less

school, high school, and even higher education institutions,”

sharp you become, according to Ms Aishath,

showing that there has been a shift in attitudes to women seeking education in the Maldives. However, though the

“You should remember that good education is very important. When I say education, it doesn’t mean just studying from your school books and getting good results. I mean be a reflective person, be empathetic, be compassionate, be kind. There are certain things that you can learn and you can do anything you can set your mind to.”

statistics confirmed this, it is so only for the case of Maldives. Women not having access to education is a problem that is occurring and has been occurring all over the world for years, and she says that in order to improve this, it is important to “find the cause of it...it [women not having access to education] can be because of poverty, or their socio-economic background or even famine and war,” and believed that it was only this way that they could address the issue and find a solution. This is a clear indication that although we have moved forward in establishing equality between both men and women, there is still much more that can be brought.

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Dr. Aishath Shazma

Noorain Jiyad 11A

Dr. Aishath Shazma is currently a gynecologist, a former

Dr. Shazma’s most difficult professional step that she

military doctor and one of the most eminent women in

had to follow through was “to get out of MNDF,” which was

professional fields within the country.“In medical profession,

in 2017. She had decided that her continuation in the MNDF

I’ve been in for 10 years and before that, I was in the military,

would have to be halted due to the harassment that she

after I started my training in 2003,” she stated in an interview

was facing within her field. Despite having served since

with us where she reminisces her journey in the profession,

2003, “I wanted out,” she stated. As a woman who had

as a woman.

succeeded in her profession, she was unable to continue

She defines women empowerment as “having equal

due to the harassment, which shows how women’s future

opportunities in workplace and ending all kinds of

lays vulnerable within society’s that target them. As a

harassment.” That is what she stands and strives for. To

woman and a certified soldier, she was able to explain

establish this, women have to be aware and she believes

the inequalities she personally experienced with regard

many are not educated on the rights they deserve. Some

to her occupation solely because of her gender. She

women are unaware and are taught to think that verbal and

began with the fundamentals of entering the military-

emotional abuse comes with being a woman and that they

the Selection Process, where the female to male ratio

just have to merely deal with it. Women are portrayed to be

differs with less females being recruited. Even the

not strong and if they protest, she stated, “people look down

appearance plays a crucial factor when it comes women

on us, thinking we are not strong enough to tolerate.” Dr.

“that was when I faced discrimination myself, it started

Shazma thinks otherwise, she wants to educate women on

even then,” she stated. Beyond the entry, other factors

their rights and teach them that they should not be subjected

such as scholarship awardings differs as well. Women

to the unfair treatment they are given.

have a lower chance of attaining scholarships compared to males and the only time women are fully ensured one is “if there is no competition against men, then the female person gets the seat, for a seminar or something like that”. For a woman, Dr. Shazma said, they have to show that they are “twice as better to be given equal rank” in the military. She also mentioned how it was more convenient for men to spend more time in service than women, due to women having to leave for childcare or domestic work. This is the very same representation of the triple shift that women face. Personally for her,

“it was tough to be a soldier, being a woman,” and the discrimination she faced was one of the reasons why she resigned her post back in 2017.

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When questioned about the obstacles faced by women, Dr. Shazma stated that she believed “we are not very supportive of other women.” In our society, it is evident that women discriminate other women which answers why they are pushed back and not leading in the community. “If a woman is confident and wants to work and wants to show that they are equal to a man, it is difficult because of the backlash.” This backlash however, is not from men alone. It is also received from women as well. Therefore, she strongly believes that women have to “give awareness and have to support other women” since the society seems to lack this key element to start a future of gender equality. Her greatest achievement she said was “becoming a doctor,” along with fact that she was a woman. This was an accomplishment for herself, for her family and for the society as well. With women as inspiring as her, to lead in high levels within these wide fields, it is a win for the women who she aids and for those who have aided her in achieving the goal. Along with that, during her time in the military, she was the first officer to “give a salute and command a platoon,” which she also considers as one of her greatest accomplishments. A message she has for the girls who aspire to lead a path like hers is “never give up.” Obstacles will continually arise in the path to success and “people will pull you down.” Amidst all these hardships that she has faced and experienced she says,

“do not get offended, do not give up on your dreams”.

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Dr. Amal Ali Ishi Jha - 11A

The students of Billabong High were fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to meet and hold an interview with Dr. Amal Ali, who has left an incredible mark on the education system of Maldives. On the occasion of Women’s Day, the students asked her about her struggles and achievements as a female educator. Upon being asked what Women Empowerment means to her, she stated that the freedom “for women to make choices and decisions regarding themselves and their families, without the influence or force of a man in the family, is Women Empowerment.” It is when women are not dictated decisions by their husbands or other men in their life plainly due to their deep-imprinted power in society and they do not have restrictions placed on their actions and thoughts.

One of the biggest challenges Dr. Amal had to face in her career was when, the then expansive Aminiya school was divided into several different schools, one of them being CHSE, a centre of higher education and A Level studies. The remaining portion of Aminiya school was also further divided into another institution. It was a great obstacle in the smooth running of the school. Dr. Amal as the head of the school, as well as the teaching staff did not wish for the school to be split up any further. She said, “We already had 3300 students coming in to study, that was a huge number of young people who required the space to run around and rather than having another school in the same space, it would be better to look for an alternative.” She stated that “I was seen to be going against the wishes of the person in power, the Minister of Education.” She put her career on the line and the Ministry of Education eventually relented and did not divide the school any further. On hindsight, to her, that decision was what was best for the school. There are several obstacles that lie in the path to improvement of women’s position in society. Dr. Amal views the lack of female representation in the top tiers of power as a major issue that hinders the betterment of their conditions. She gave the example of a workspace and the basic utilities such as lavatories and work cubicles being insufficient in space. “A woman would not always desire to work surrounded by several men beside her”, neither would she be appealed by the small area of toilets, which are all decided in accordance to the comfort of males, due to a man being the one in power. She talked about how most women work hard under all circumstances, even if they are expecting mothers. Their needs are not catered to properly, like the provision of comfortable seating and parking spaces closer to the place of work. Her belief is that until a woman also takes the position of higher power in a workplace and contributes to the decision making, the needs and requirements of women will not be met adequately, simply because the opposite gender only knows so much of what they need. She thinks that,

“Power should be shared between both genders so that the requirements of both men and women can be fulfilled.”

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When asked if women are being promoted enough in the workplace, she answered, “Yes and no. It depends on who you are and how much you hear.” Taking the cabinet and civil service as an example, she talked about how even though 51% of civil workers are women, the power is held by men and how despite the new cabinet having more female members compared to before, it’s not enough. Over half the population of Maldives comprises of women and it is her belief that since they are so large in number, they should have the power to make decisions too, which will allow women’s voices to be heard. However that is not the case, and she thinks that it is because of the male dominant society we live in. She thinks that women are not being promoted enough in the workplace. Regardless of several women leaving behind their traditional roles and working alongside their spouses, she thinks there is a gap created in familial roles. “The situation is often not understood and properly dealt with,” she stated. Her idea is that men should learn to understand that it is equally their responsibility to look after the household as it is of the wife’s. With the increasing use of technology, she believes it is much simpler too. Until this gap is bridged, she thinks that women will not be given their due place in society. Finally, she sends a message to all women. She encourages them to not let go of their dreams simply for finding a man or settling down to start a family. While she believes family to be extremely important, she urges women not to abandon their dreams because they can still work to achieve them. According to her, “There are different stages in a woman’s life. There is the

She herself identified her passion as a teenager and worked

stage of being a student where dreams are identified. Then the

hard towards achieving it, climbing up the ladder to be who

stage of starting a family. The primary focus should lie here until

she is today. Dr. Amal says that the interests one develops as

the children are older,” after which she encourages women to

a student are never to be disregarded and should actually be

work for their passion, even if it is after the adulthood of their

pursued. She says it is never too late to achieve your goals and

children, because they deserve to live a fulfilling and productive

realise the contributions you can make to the society.

life till the end of their time.

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Hisaan Hussain Aishath Zeeba Hamid - 11A

A copy of the Magna Carta hangs proudly upon the wall of Hisaan Hussain’s office. The renowned lawyer dons a warming smile as she tells us about the document that was published over 800 years ago, giving rights from government to the individual. This certain copy was a gift from one of her clients, a marker of just one of her numerous successes. But when we asked about her greatest achievement her answer was that it was being be able to be part of the fight -a notable battle against the wrongful actions of the government- they’ve fought for the past few years and the fact that she got the opportunity and the acceptance to be a huge part of the fight and perhaps to even lead it on many “I think its different for men, because when a

fronts.

professionally trained man walks in, every one naturally Of course, such accomplishments can only be reached by

assumes that the person is a qualified person who is

pushing through several hardships and in such a profession,

capable of delivering the task that he was assigned to,”

she highlights the hardest thing she has had to do: “Every

she continued. “But as a woman, even if you have equal

time I visit jail, it’s hard to see people being confined, to see

qualifications, training and experience, you still have to

that pain of the confined person and their family, because we

take one more step and prove to the other person that you

are not only visiting the client and having conversations with

are capable. So there is always one extra step, as a woman,

them, we are relaying their messages to their family, as we

you need to take to be accepted in the same position as

are the mode of communication between both parties and it’s

your male counterpart.”

hard to see the pain that they go through.” Despite this, Hisaan says there aren’t necessarily any The aforementioned is just one of the struggles she’s had

specific difficulties faced by being a female lawyer in the

to face in her profession. Hisaan believes that being taken

Maldives. She believes that women in the Maldives face

as seriously as her male counterparts is quite a challenge,

the same difficulties as women around the world - having

and is one that is applicable to many female lawyers. “I was

to think about meals, laundry, housekeeping, and family

working in a private law firm after leaving the government,”

responsibilities on top of their work. On the other hand,

she recalls, “And when I walked in to meet some clients and

she believes it is different for men because they have to

introduced myself, they actually requested for a male lawyer.”

worry about just their work.

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Regarding the obstacles faced by women in improving their conditions in the society, she identifies the problem of making choices and being judged for having made those choices.

“I think that when a person is allowed to independently choose what they want and if, as a woman, you prefer not to work after being trained for even 10 years or being a very experienced professional in any field, if you choose to be at home with your family instead, you should not be judged. Similarly, if you have children, if you have a family and you still choose to pursue your career and put in as many hours as your male counterpart into your job, you should still not be judged; but we see that in both instances, women are judged very harshly. If you prefer to stay at home you’re judged, and even if you prefer to pursue your career you still judged.”

It is evident that, for Hisaan, choice plays an important role in defining character, and upon coming across the topic of women empowerment, it applies there too. For her, women empowerment is defined as the “ability to do what you love to do, both personally and professionally, and getting to make a choice on what you want to do.” This, according to her, does not necessarily have to be what others may think is the right thing to do, but it means that the individual gets the opportunity to choose what they want to do and live by their choice. Drawing our pleasant interview to a close, we asked one her one final question: what message would you give to the girls who aspire to be like you? Her inspiring reply,

“Do not give up. Know what you want to achieve in life, and always continuously and consistently work towards achieving your goal.”


Shadhiya Ibrahim Naiha Ali Naeem -12A

“Education for women can improve their capacity to sign on a document, but unless education is backed with capacity to question unjust practices, potential for women is limited. Women’s access to income may give them greater sense of self reliance & purchasing power, but if it is undertaken at the cost of their health & labour exploitation, the costs may outweigh the benefits. Women’s presence in governance structures has the potential to change unjust practices, but if women in these bodies are from the narrow elite, their presence is tokenistic. The question is how prepared are we to make the country a just place as stipulated in our constitution.”

Ms Shadhiya Ibrahim is one of the most notable Feminists in the Maldives working as the Assistant Representative of UNFPA in efforts to establish gender equality. The UNFPA has undertaken programmes since 1994-2015 on topics such as reproductive health, population development, gender equality etc. A main focus of UNFPA has continuously been the empowerment of women. In their official website they state “In Maldives, the UNFPA country office works with the vision of ensuring that the reproductive rights of all, including women, young and marginalized people, are protected.” It was an honourable opportunity to be able to interview the woman affiliated with such an organisation for over 20 years. During the interview, we got the chance to ask Ms Shadhiya about programmes they are currently working on and she informed us that they were focusing on “educating Maldivians on topics such as gender equality and reproductive health via an app that has been launched; Sithaa.” Additionally, they are “trying to organise safe spaces” where young people can come and participate in “events for discussion” on the said topics. Another ambitious task discussed was “integrating these topics into subjects in school and textbooks which would without a doubt be a time consuming task.”

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Furthermore, focusing on the topic of Women Empowerment, Ms Shadhiya explained to us what it meant to her;

“women being able to do everything that they want to do.” Moreover, when asked what her greatest achievement was, she stated “to be able to do what I want, to be able to go where I want, to be able to wear what I want without having gotten permission for doing that.” This is an immensely impressive achievement as Maldivians often have conservative attitudes towards women and it is difficult for them to be this independant due to the stigma surrounding the topic. In terms of women joining the workforce, we asked for her opinion on how even though women playing instrumental roles have now become a norm, they still have to bear the brunt of household/domestic tasks and Ms. Shadhiya responded with “it is certainly something that happens, women take double and even triple burdens” and “I have not seen much of change in terms of men taking care of household tasks/social roles.” This shows us that, even though gradual changes such as women being able to join the workforce has occurred, on a micro and

Similarly, upon asking whether certain judgements

ideological scale people’s attitudes on traditional divisions of

and criticisms occur as a woman in her profession, she

labor and household roles has not shifted.

confidently responded with “Of course, because we are so

On the topic of problems that women are currently facing, we

outspoken and outgoing, we often get condemned for it”

asked her what the hardest thing she had to do professionally

since “Issues that we are promoting are very sensitive and

was and got the response “convincing people about the rights

not fit into the traditionally conservative/religious society,

& equality we are fighting for.” This answer shows us that

it makes it very difficult to move forward with it, because

patriarchal ideas have been so ingrained into the minds of

gender equality is often seen as not meant to be” and she

all individuals it is going to be an extremely difficult task to

gave examples of demeaning questions that people often

reverse. Then we asked, in her opinion what the obstacles

ask such as “What is it that you are fighting for? What is

women are facing in improving their conditions in society and

it that women cannot do?” these questions goes to show

her immediate response was “Patriarchy” and she continued

that a majority of the population is extremely unaware of

to say “attitudes of men towards equality is still quite hard & I

the hardships women are facing. This should encourage

don’t think it has changed for the better.” When asked whether

individuals to raise awareness through every means

it was just men, to our surprise, we found that women are also

possible and aid women like Ms Shadhiya and UNFPA in

a huge hindrance in working towards gender neutrality. This

the work that they do.

may be because people’s perceptions are molded by gender

Last but not least, we requested Ms. Shadhiya to give a

socialisation which have always been patriarchal in nature.

message to all women who aspire to lead the same way

Everyday norms and values are shaped by gender socialisation,

as she, and the response given was,

hence it is a deep rooted issue that needs an immense amount of time and effort to change. Furthermore, since our “society is

“being a leader is anything anyone

a socially conservative environment,”she believed that “many

can do. Man, woman, boy or girl

women don’t realize the potential that they actually have”

the only division between men and

and this may be due to the patriarchal indoctrination that our

women are reproductive roles”

society is continuously undergoing.

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Shahindha Ismail Fathmath Malsa Maumoon 12A

Shahindha Ismail or commonly known amongst peers as ”Hindha”, is one of the most significant women in the Maldives. This notable figure, who had been the Former President of the Police Integrity Commision and currently residing as the Executive Director of Maldives Democracy Network and also a lifelong activist, has fiercely worked towards achieving the basic human rights required for each citizen and worked outstandingly towards the goal of a gender neutral society. The Maldives Democracy Network or MDN had originally been formed as the Maldives Detainee Network in 2004 as a response to the allegations of several human rights violations after the occurrence of a mass arrest of 300 people on the 12th and 13th of August in the very same year. The organisation also made history in the country by registering as one of the first human rights NGOs in 2006, and this is why it had been an absolute honor to interview the woman behind this impeccable

Additionally, in regards to the obstacles she has faced in her

contribution to our society.

professional life, Ms Shahindha stated that her current work

During the interview, when asked about what women

environment is “a women led environment” and thus do not

empowerment means to her, Ms Shahindha, with no

face challenges as such today, but expressed that there had

instance of hesitancy in her voice said,“it means having

been times in the previous years while working as the head

women understand that they are equal, and that they can do

of an independent state institution where she faced multiple

the things they want to do, not because someone lets them

impediments, “it was very obvious that some of the others

do it,” and further explained,

that worked with me, that I needed to work with, could not

“to me, it’s more about women understanding it [that they can do the things they want to], that it’s not something that someone let’s them do, or is a favour.”

accept the fact that a woman was asking them to do things”, she recalls, but as per her view, she believes that most of the challenges that has come her way was “not necessarily because I’m a woman. I think it’s because of the values that I carry and the fact that we always try to hold people

She also went into depth about the importance of women

accountable.” However very passionately, she emphasises

feeling empowered, stating that “the way I see it, a lot of the

that “right now, in the human rights movements that I work in,

times women still feel like they have to be given the space to

it’s not a challenge but it’s a very frustrating thing that I face.

do it, rather I feel like I have the space to do it, but somebody

It’s that the men and women who call themselves ‘champions

is not letting me” and continued on to say “the space is by

of women’s rights’ are not necessarily people who treat other

default mine, it’s not given to me by someone. I think that

women with respect.” She goes into depth with her view,

women need to have that deeper understanding of owning

highlighting that this was not something she could accept

that space, and when you understand that, I think women

and that “it is something that I need people to call out and I

are already empowered and then, there are all the other obstructions and challenges that women need to face, and I

find that women who have been abused or disrespected by

think with that understanding, women are already prepared

these very people are hesitant to say it and I think it should

to do that.”

be spoken about.”

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Furthermore, focusing on the hardships faced by women

Despite this, on the topic of whether there has been

on a daily basis, she agrees that a lot of the times,

certain advancements in regards to equality in the recent years, Ms Shahindha agrees that advancements of sort

“patriarchy is what divides men and women”,

have taken place but only through the form of laws and regulations. She acknowledges that it is a good thing and is a “form of protection for women and others as well” but then

but stresses the importance of women supporting women as

expresses, “why do we need laws and punishments to be

well, “when it [women supporting each other] is not a norm,

able to treat one another in a civil manner? To understand

I think it becomes a challenge.’” Moreover, Ms Shahindha

that the other human being, regardless of what gender, is as

intensifies the importance of family in indoctrinating these

good as I am?” She continues on to convey that “we have a

elementary values but agrees that the “biggest obstruction”

very long way to go” and that in her ideal world “we should

is when the mindset of “this is what girls should do and

not need rules to be able to respect another human being.”

this is what they shouldn’t do” is ingrained as she believes

Even so, she recognises that we have moved forth on the

that family is what “fundamentally molds a child” and

path towards equality stating that “I wouldn’t call it an

thus instigates that “girls and boys need to be taught that

advancement but I think we have moved a little in that area”

women are equal and that they are able by other women in

and enhances this view by giving examples of young women

their families.”

who call out for their rights through small movements such

Similarly, upon being asked whether she had to face any

as “Massaru Tax Campaign”,”Nufoshey” and “the Occupy

difficult situations in which she felt that women and power

Movements”, in which she expresses her appraisal towards

were two incompatible concepts, with a bitter chuckle

them stating that “they are really great young people.”

and no delay to her answer, she said “yes” and went on to

With a shift from the veracious details of the hardships

reminisce about times where this exact scenario played

faced by women every day, when asked about the women

out in front of her while holding a workshop about human

she admires most, Ms Shahindha with a lighthearted tone

rights and equality at a local island. Recalling that “one of

said “Oh that’s a tough one” and continued on to detail that

the community leaders that attended one of the sessions,

“there is a lot of women that I really admire, but if it was

stood up and said that in his opinion, he said my name,

from here, the Maldives, Rilwan’s mom is a really great

and said that I should be sitting at home taking care of my

inspiration to me. Then in a different group of people, Maria

daughter and not travelling around with a bunch of men.’”

Didi, our Defense Minister, and Velezinee are some of the

With a slight pause and a deep sigh she continued on to say

people that I really admire.” She then goes on to explain

“and I think a lot of people in the room actually agreed with

that she has worked closely with all three and that they are

him, even if they didn’t say it” and with a slightly humorous

“very strong and intelligent people who are not intimidated

tone remarked,

by anyone”, going on to say that it does not only limit to just these three individuals but various other women as well.

“my response to him was that, I may have not been sitting at home, but raising my child was exactly what I was doing there.’’

a message to all the girls out there who aspire to lead the

Ms Shahindha also clarified that these situations do not only

whether they are girls or boys face challenges.” and persists

occur in average workshops but sadly stated that it happens

on, “Especially in this region where we live. Any human right

during high level meetings as well.

that you’re talking about is faced with challenges and I think

On a final note, we requested Ms Shahindha to convey same way that she continues to do so and her response entailed “Don’t stop. It’s natural that anyone, regardless of

that girls need to be a big part of teaching boys how much respect that they should give girls so don’t stop. You’re going to face a lot of obstructions, intimidations, people who don’t like you for saying what you want, but don’t stop.”

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Mariyam Waseema Layaal Hassan Shareef - 11A

Ms. Mariyam Waseema, the Managing Director/CEO of the healthcare based corporation ‘Life support’, works fiercely to become one the the leading service providers in order to improve the lives of the Maldivian people, and we were more than honoured to have this opportunity to interview her for International Women’s Day 2019. When asked the question on what women empowerment had meant to her, Ms. Waseema’s immediate explanation that it “means the right for women to contribute to the community, to the society, to our economic growth as well as to their personal development and their families.

According to Ms. Waseema, “Women leaders, those whom

It is when all these combine together and allow women to

are in the top management, (they) are more empathetic

contribute to the overall growth of the society.”

toward their employees, are more willing to help and more cooperative.” From this, we learn that women are capable

While discussion about the ‘gender differences’, we asked

of possessing qualities that allow them to help others in

Ms. Waseema for her opinion on whether women are given

achieving their goals and continue to do so without hesitation.

the same opportunities as men. Without hesitance, she replied, “indeed, society does not see women as equal and

Before ending the interview we requested Ms. Waseema

believe that women are not suited for certain tasks. We live

to provide us with a message for girls who aspire to lead as

in a society where women are looked down upon and since

she did. She happily replied “the first thing they need is self

they are women, they are discouraged from performing

confidence and (of course) with that self confidence you will

certain tasks and activities”. Indicating that women lack a

have to work really hard and do whatever needs to be done.”

sense of liberty because of the constant discrimination that

She continues to say “in order for one to become what she

they face in their daily lives.

desires, she must first decide what she wishes to achieve.

She promptly stated that, “As women, they have to face

There is no barrier if you work hard for it”, This illustrates

more challenges in the society, than men do.” suggesting

how despite the numerous challenges a woman has to face

that most individuals within the society commonly view

when reaching for her goal, there is no obstacle that can

women as mentally weaker. Due to the conservative

prevent her from doing so if she’s dedicated to it. She then

structure of the Maldivian society, the female gender is

concludes her message with,

regarded as inferior to men and that patriarchy is still dominant till this date. Despite this, Ms. Waseema believes

“What a man can do, a woman can do.”

that gender equality and women’s rights are well promoted and the growth of this awareness is seen everyday.

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WHAT WOMEN’S DAY MEANS TO ME...

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STRONGHOLD AN EXPERIMENT Gayatri Subhash and Mariyam Alisha Naiph

Gender roles have been an integral part of socialization for a long time. These roles are assigned based on the sex by the society and individuals are expected to behave accordingly. Gender roles have reinforced gender stereotypes. For example, it is believed that girls cannot succeed in challenging disciplines such as science and technology however it is believed that girls are supposed to be obedient and quiet. On the other hand, boys are supposed to be bold, risk-taking and aggressive. Many years of researches from Feminist Sociologists have finally put a dent in the patriarchal foundation of the society. Due to this change, parents are trying to raise their children in a Gender-neutral manner. However, this diffe rent attitude towards nurture of girl-child is more prominent as compared to boys. Girls are encouraged to take up sports, take up challenging subjects and careers and become successful in their lives. On the other hand, socialization of boys and expectations from them has remained more or less the same. If a boy takes up hobbies such as cooking, sewing, try to be a homemaker, or use makeup (except if they are in theatre or music band) then it is frowned upon.

To prove this theory, the students of 9th Grade conducted an experiment. Two boys from class 9A wore nail polishes on both hands and came to school. It can be noted that on the same day many girls were also wearing nail polishes. The reactions of other students and teachers were recorded. The sample of this survey consisted of twenty people which included eight teachers. These twenty respondents consisted of 11 males and 9 females. The responses are represented in graphical form.

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Male

Female

The results show that most of the respondents disapproved the act of wearing nail polishes by the boys, with an exception of two or three people. Few respondents also labeled the boys as homosexual and mentally sick. Some interesting responses are mentioned below: “Nail polishes must be worn by girls as they have to look pretty, however boys can look ugly.” Few of the teachers mocked the boys asking them if they were girls! A teacher sarcastically remarked, “Why didn’t you come wearing lipstick and mascara as well” Analysis of responses also shows that male respondents were more tolerant of this deviant behaviour with a few of them giving neutral or positive responses, while none of the female respondents approved of the act. Also, female respondents rejection of the act was more because they see it (wearing Nail Polish) as encroachment on an area which is their prerogative. However, more derogatory labels towards the nail-polish wearing boys came from the male respondents only. This experiment only scratches the surface of gender stereotypes existing in the society. Though wearing nail polish is only an appearance change, it shows how deep-rooted gender stereotypes are and even an innocent act of putting nail polish by boys was disapproved by 80% of the sample size. However, we hope that with changing attitude towards gender stereotypes, in near future gender roles would become more balanced and individual preferences and attitudes would not be frowned upon.

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Profile for Islanders Education

Invictus Volume 6  

Invictus Volume 6  

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