Female candidates won majorities on island councils for the first time in the Maldives’ third municipal elections on May 6.
Voters on the islands of Thakandhoo and Kelaa in Haa Alif atoll, as well as Kurendhoo in Lhaviyani atoll and Thoddoo in Alif Alif atoll, made history by electing more women than men to their three-member island councils.
In the northernmost atoll, Aminath Ismail from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and Aishath Mizna from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives were elected to the Kelaa island council.
MDP candidates Aishath Asifa and Fathmath Fazeeha won seats on the Thakandhoo island council.
Farahanaz Mohamed from the MDP and Aishath Vishama from the PPM retained their seats on the Kurendhoo island council whilst MDP candidates Khadheeja Niusha and Aishath Adam won seats on the Thoddoo council.
Only two female candidates were elected in the Maldives’ first local council elections in February 2011, but the figure increased to 62 in the January 2014 local council elections.
Despite the historic female majorities, the representation of women in decision-making posts remains low in the Maldives. Women account for only three out of 14 ministers, five out of 85 lawmakers, and six out of more than 180 judges.
Shadhiya Ibrahim from the women’s rights group Uthema suggested that the perception that women’s primary role is in the domestic sphere is the main challenge to increasing participation in politics.
But the successful female candidates could become symbols of change, she said.