Maldivian women are considered amongst the most emancipated in South Asia. The Maldives also ranks the second-highest on the United Nations Gender-related Development Index (GDI) in the South Asia region. Despite the apparent progress made in the advancement of women, gender discrimination exists in the realm of public service and politics, and platforms for women to participate in the decision-making processes at both the national level and community level are limited. The very few platforms that do exist to promote women’s participation, such as Women’s Development Committees (WDC), are constrained by a general lack of understanding of the institutional support that is required for such Committees to operate to their full potential.
Transparency Maldives (TM) implemented program, under its Civic Participation Project (CPP), to increase women’s participation at the local level focusing on Women’s Development Committees (WDCs). Despite the fact that WDCs have existed as a platform for women going back as far as 1982, there is still limited understanding of how and why WDCs operate. Existing literature on WDCs provide limited information on the aspirations and motivations of WDC members, the barriers they face, public perception of WDCs, and their relationship with Island Councils. This study was conceived on the notion that interventions designed to strengthen WDCs should be based on the experience and realities of WDCs that operate in the field. Based on this premise, TM set out to undertake an assessment of WDCs in order to gain insight into them, identify challenges and capacity issues and propose recommendations for capacity building of WDCs. This assessment report is divided into five sections: Section two explains the methodology used while section three provides an overview of the historical development of WDCs as well the participation of women in decision-making in Maldivian society. Section four provides details of the findings of the survey and focus group discussions. Based on the findings of the assessment, the final section provides recommendations for various stakeholder groups.