Paid maternity leave for female civil servants has been extended to six months, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced at a ceremony to mark the International Women’s Day, fulfilling a campaign pledge and target of his administration’s 100-day action plan.
“Starting today, women employed in the civil service will get six months paid maternity leave and men will get one month paid paternity leave,” he said, adding that women with newborns will also be eligible for paid leave until their infant turns six months.
There are over 24,500 civil servants in the Maldives, of which more than 13,700 are women, according to official statistics,
Women previously got three months paid leave upon the birth of a child. Fathers were only entitled to three days of leave.
At Thursday morning’s ceremony on Kaafu atoll Maafushi island, Solih expressed concern over the low representation of women in the top levels of government.
“Sixty one percent of the executive posts are held by men. Women comprises only 39 percent. I don’t believe this is how it should be,” he said. “When talking about empowering women, this is a tradition that must be changed. We want to increase the role of women in executive posts of all sectors.”
He also pledged to submit an amendment to the decentralisation law to introduce a quota for women on island councils.
“Bringing changes to laws alone cannot empower women and create equal opportunities. We need sustainable policies and determination,” he said. “This will be a key step forward in increasing the role of women in political decision making.”
The new administration will also earmark 20 percent of small business loans to women and youth, he noted.
Solih called upon the public to respect women in order to “empower the whole community” and “to bring women to their rightful place in the community”.
The annual Rehendhi Awards, which recognises women’s contributions in various fields, were handed out to nine individuals at the ceremony.