Women with Disabilities in the Maldives Have the Power to Persuade
CEPPS works to address the underlying causes of marginalization and discrimination and the ways in which intersecting marginalized identities often inhibit people’s ability to participate in public life. Women with disabilities in the Maldives, for example, experience compounded discrimination based on their gender and disability status and, as a result, may have less access to full participation in political and civic life. With support from USAID, CEPPS/IFES is conducting the Power to Persuade program in the Maldives to ensure that the unique perspectives and priorities of women with disabilities are integrated into national development priorities, particularly those set by local government bodies.
In 2022, CEPPS/IFES launched the Power to Persuade program with the Maldivian disabled people’s organization (DPO) Care Society to equip women with disabilities with the skills needed to advocate to government leaders for their policy priorities. The program began by training a group of facilitators, all of whom identify as people with disabilities, who then delivered training to 82 women with disabilities across four island atolls across the Maldives. Following these trainings, facilitators and training alumnae developed a collective policy platform to provide a roadmap for advocacy meetings and campaigns with elected officials and government representatives. For example, participants jointly advocated for all mosques to be accessible for people with disabilities, raising concerns such as the lack of government enforcement of construction codes, including the lack of ramps and accessible infrastructure in mosques, and lack of sign language interpretation during prayer times. Additionally, participants called for dedicated personnel with Sign Language interpretation skills within the ministry to ensure that all Deaf persons and persons with hearing disabilities can access services at the ministry.
“The goal of the program is to develop an advocacy plan. Through [Power to Persuade,] I want to advocate for the rights of women with disabilities. I am very happy to be part of this workshop that is being held specifically for women with disabilities. With the information from this workshop, I want to find solutions for the challenges we face, now and in the future.”
Aishath Zeesha Ghanim – Greater Malé area Power to Persuade advocate
Facilitators conducted a total of four regional trainings in the Greater Malé area, and the Haa Dhaal, Seenu and Laamu Atolls, reaching a total of 82 women with disabilities. Care Society and CEPPS/IFES then collaborated with program participants to combine the policy priorities from each regional workshop into a single policy platform, which is continuing to be used for advocacy with Maldivian government officials and community leaders. Upcoming advocacy initiatives will encourage cooperation across government agencies and better ensure that policy changes are made in consultation with women with disabilities.
“From what I learned in this workshop, I will use the skills to advocate and persuade other [women with disabilities] like me to advocate as well. I want to tell them about our rights and work together to advocate for ourselves.”
Aishath Waheeda – Greater Malé area Power to Persuade advocate