The United Nations (UN) and Maldives on Thursday signed a project document on digitialising social services in order to better protect women and girls from poverty and violence during emergency situations.
Titled 'Protecting Women and Children: Digitalizing and Streamlining Social Services and Creating a Unified Platform for National Care', the project aims to enhance shock-responsive social protection benefits and services targeted towards women and girls, in order to prevent them from falling into poverty and protect them from violence in prolonged socioeconomic and emergency situations such as the ongoing COVID-19. pandemic.
The document was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid and UN Resident Coordinator Catherine Haswell at a ceremony held at the foreign ministry.
Funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the project has a budget of USD 452,500 and will boost Maldives' COVID-19 recovery efforts, aligning them with progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by achieving three key results:
- Strengthen capacity of national stakeholders to support social norms to prevent gender-based violence, empower women and increase access to reproductive health and economic opportunities
- Increase access for vulnerable populations including children, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons with mental illness and those living in poverty, through better data collection
- Consolidate and build an integrated, efficient, inclusive and sustainable social protection system based on the principles of Universal Basic Income (UBI), thus paving the way towards a reformed, expanded, streamlined and digitised national social protection policy in line with the government’s recovery plan.
"This project ... will support the government to develop a National Social Protection Policy, to address the needs of all, especially the vulnerable population groups. The project will assist in creating a conducive environment that favour women to participate in economic activities and promote desirable change in the social systems", said Minister Shahid at the ceremony.
"It will also change social norms to prevent gender-based violence, increase access to reproductive health and increase women’s empowerment. With the increase in access to digital technology, it will expand the essential public services through digital solutions. It will also support the local councils to build capacity and strengthen data collection".
He thanked the UN Secretary-General for allowing Maldives to be one of the few countries to access the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund twice, further acknowledging the hard work of the UN Country Team and relevant stakeholders.
In turn, UN Resident Coordinator Haswell reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to strengthen the social protection system to help vulnerable groups in Maldives, stating that UN Maldives will work closely with all stakeholders towards an inclusive, sustainable recovery in 2021.
"As the Maldives continues its fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Maldives and the United Nations remains committed to supporting accelerated achievement of the 2030 Agenda and leaving no one behind. The Government and UN will closely monitor the targets of the Joint Programme during its implementation from 15 October 2020 to 1 November 2021", added the foreign ministry.
The pandemic saw an increase in reported gender-based and child abuse cases in 2021, with Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Aishath Mohamed Didi confirmed last June that the number of domestic violence cases reported in Maldives saw an increase with the easing of certain lockdown measures at the end of May.
Globally, alarm has been raised over the higher incidence of domestic violence and gender-based violence amid COVID-19 lockdown measures and movement restrictions, with several vulnerable individuals forced to remain in at-risk environments.
Throughout the year, public ire grew considerably, regarding the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting sexual offenders, despite numerous promises to protect the rights of children and women.
Protesters demanding justice for rape and sexual assault victims held demonstrations throughout the year in front of Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services as well as the roads of capital Male', following an upsurge of reported cases and alleged misconduct of police during investigations.
The police have continually urged the public to report all such cases to the police's Family and Child Protection Wing at +960 3000600 or the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services at 1412.