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Tenacious Women’s Expo 2017

This is a loose translation of the speech by President Abdullah Yameen on the Inauguration of the Tenacious Women Expo 2017

This certainly is turning out to be a very glamorous and happy event. This has become the very first expo exclusively for women in honouring women.

Your courage and determination are evident since so many women have participated in this event. Someone forecasted around 6000 to be present here.

To organize an expo is not an easy feat. To organize any sort of talent show is never easy. I also used to organize such events in an official capacity. However, I believe since it is not easy for me to organize such events now, my wife took the initiative and organized. Standing here, my wife and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who expressed kind and sincere feelings towards her, the First Lady.

From what I have gathered it has taken a lot of days to organize this event. Looking at the expo, we can see the exhibits were not only showcased to be judged, although there are some displayed to be judged. For those talented and skilled, we have witnessed them taking home their well deserved prizes. I would like to congratulate all who won awards in their respective categories, groups, and fields, and I look forward to seeing the results of their work made with more strength and diligence, in the next expo.

I would also like to congratulate the overall winner of the expo. From what I have been informed that it has only been few days that she has taken up interest in this field. However, we have witnessed with her focus and commitment her skill and talent in her work. It is not easy to choose the winner of this expo among the sea of different talents. I have listened to Dr. Fathimath Mohamed’s speech, who spoke on behalf of the judges. It is easy to pick the winner among different categories but not easy to pick the first, second and third from the combined categories. So certainly the winner’s exhibit displays numerous amount of work invested in it.I have visited the expo before the opening and I have seen many very robust, artistic and

I have visited the expo before the opening and I have seen many very robust, artistic and skillful items. As the one who has spoken here before mentioned, there are around 26000 exhibits. This is not a small amount, considering 420 individuals, 90 groups, 91 Clubs, Associations, and NGOs, participated. I feel this is the reason why this meeting is so successful, that many women have engaged in this expo.

The expo organizers wanted to display women’s talent to all Maldivians and to show foreign visitors how women’s role is advancing in the society. We talk about empowering women and to make them productive people. We talk of making women be able to sustain economically. We are not talking here about achieving the neglected rights of women, that is half of it. That is definitely one of the most important aspects. However, we need to visualize women as strong people, while not leaving the issues of their rights to the margins. Tonight’s expo has proven that women are talented people and a group who remain committed.

For that reason in the Maldives today the policies that have been adopted, are encouraging as Minister of Gender and Family noted, not only to achieve women’s right but to make women economically self-sufficient, as women make up 40% of our population. We always believe in equal rights for women in work, in all areas and to prevent discrimination. Women should have equal opportunities in all areas and at the workplace. This should be implemented. This is today’s government’s policy.

We are doing special work to create opportunities for women in everything. When we look at education, it is certainly women who are more in percentage than men in the higher education. Women overtake men in this area. For this reason, I don’t see why women cannot be in high posts in the government.

I used to see few women entrepreneurs in business and industrial sectors. We want to see more women entrepreneurs in the industrial sectors. The government is pro-actively doing works to enable this.

Our government’s current policy’s target is to place women as Board of Directors, in 40% of government companies and in organizations, where we hold the majority of shares. We have been working on it for quite a while now. Right now I estimate that there will not be less than 20% on the Board of Directors. Before the end of our 5-year term, we would have reached our target.

Committedly when we see women’s talent in this expo we also need to learn some things from this expo. Considering the meticulous, expert and time-taking work displayed in this expo, we can see it is synonymous with the work of such as that of a watchmaker’s artisans work.

How do we find the market for these? Before me, Minister of Economic Development Mr. Mohamed Saeed, the only other male who got the same opportunity as me to participate in a women’s only meeting. Due to the arrangement, Mr. Saeed also didn’t get a seat.

Emerging from behind Mr. Saeed came to deliver his speech and in his speech, he noted about what needs to be done to find the markets for these products. We need skilled and talented people. We need to change our thinking and to organize a think tank to work on this. I estimate people who make such creative items to make about a dozen or so per year. So that they are valuable products. These are the kind of quality products exhibited in this expo.

Famous Swiss watchmakers also work similarly. I am not saying it is the same work. But if you are trying to market it as a product, it will come under the same line of work. We need to think and research what kinds of products we can create with these complex and detail craftsmanship.

The other category is mass production. We need to preserve and restore traditional Maldivian arts and crafts that are slowly fading away. We see different types of “Thundu Kunaa” mat weaving. Lacquer work is also fading away. However, with the use of machinery, we can introduce more people into the work and produce more marketable products.

A couple of years ago, then Trader Ministry, now Ministry of Economic Development has in its work’s to give marks to products and the system of giving marks was based on marketable items, which was for a good reason. The purpose of that was for those visitors who are now 2 to 3 times of our population, to allow to take home a special souvenir from the Maldives. It is important for those visitors to bring home that special souvenir of the Maldives. What we want to see are Maldivian products in our resort shops.

We don’t want to see handicraft products from our neighboring countries and faraway countries like Indonesia. These resort shops are your products marketplace. So even back then we kept on thinking about marketable items. It is not an easy thing.

That is why we kept on giving those marks. Handicrafts that scored the most were those that represented and portrayed true Maldives. That was something we were able to run very successfully.

So we need to focus on going into mass production. It won’t be easy especially for women who work alone at home. It will be time-consuming. Even when I say it, we know that the women take up the responsibility of the majority or the entire nation’s economy. While supporting what Mr. Saeed said, even though domestic work or home services is not considered as a GDP component and does not go in the nation’s figures, women at home contribute to good parenting.

From the mother’s lap, a child becomes an adult. We are proud of the current status of our strong-willed women.

Both education and Health sector are important for our survival. Look at our teacher’s count. Larger percentage comprises of female teachers and the larger percentage are women in the health sector as well.

Aren’t these the two most vital needs for human development?

After this comes economic sustenance; to earn more, the decision to get a TV or if it will be to get an oven. Women, similar to how they look after their children, they go out to work in the most service oriented two sectors: education and health sector. These are productive sectors. Women contribute the most in these two sectors.

So like I have mentioned before, in order to produce in large quantity or to display in an expo, we need some sort of automation. Lacquer work is very successful now because now we use lathe machines instead of doing it manually (lacquerware wheel) like in the olden days.

Automation has come into it too. So all that time-consuming painstaking craftwork can now be done in a matter of seconds. After that, we get to see the product in its final form. In olden days we used to even create the dye to make these products.Today these dye or pigments are imported items. The dye or pigments were made from pounding the roots from different plants found in the Maldives, and they last permanently.

I am proud to tell you all tonight that I still have a “Liyaa Kashi” (Lathing needle) of my grandfather that he made himself. I am sure it must be over 100 years old now and yet there is no change to its color. The only change it has is that since it looked like a pencil, and thinking it was a pencil my eldest son sharpened it with a pencil sharpener. Except that, there is no change to it. There is no change to that 100-year-old artifact’s pigments. It is without any crack, loss or any defect, we are able to preserve. This is also not an easy work. This a craft.

For this reason, I feel that we need Mr. Saeed’s assistance by arranging these kinds of expo’s and finding markets for women’s products and also to provide them with economic advice permanently. That is to find out if it is worth to make a much time invested artifact and how many hours to give into a specific kind of designs or work.

Next, is bringing in automation process into these kinds of craftworks or else we won’t be able to sustain these skills. The reason behind organizing a women’s expo like this is to showcase their talents forever and to produce marketable products. The result we see is women doing their hard work at home while doing a work that earns an income. Ultimately we see women who are capable and productive who also has a special skill. I will change the old saying and say, behind every successful woman there will be a husband. A husband will be there to support the woman. And there will be men to encourage a woman in their work.

So like I have said we need to arrange ways to make this work automated. If not we won’t have the motivation to make artifacts just to exhibit in an expo like this.

So in tonight’s expo, shortly, we will see the level of talented women in the Maldives. We will be seeing in this expo how they have tried to make the crafts in sync with the latest technology that fits with the modern world. Even though items were made in the old fashion way, they have worked on to make them in line with current styles. Even if we are looking for a different taste, from making curry powder to cake decoration and handicraft work to lacquer work, dressmaking, crochet are the varied many types of items we will be seeing in this expo.

All of these are skills where we see women in the forefront. When considering national heritage, there are in these some crafts that we would always want to preserve. G.Dh. Gadhdhoo island is special for mat weaving and it’s associated products. Certainly, we are honouring them with the proud place that Gadhdhoo deserves. However, we need to see such mat weaving in other islands as well. Earlier lacquer work used to be found especially in B. Atoll. However, now we can see that craftsmanship from other parts of the Maldives too. We are seeing that now in other parts of the Maldives because automation process has been introduced into that work. That is the reason why the craft has expanded. Now lacquer work can easily be done without the lacquer ware wheel.

What I want to see next in this expo are dedicated people who will remain in this sector. People who are creating these fading Maldivian traditional crafts need to become teachers of these crafts. So that they can teach and create an interest in these crafts for the next generation.

However the only way we can continue in that area of work, like me and Mr. Saeed has said is, if we can get a market so that the products are sold as soon as they are produced. I will meet and talk with the Ministry of Economic Development, Private Enterprises and traders, and find how we can achieve this. Even for that changes need to be made as per demand to the product. That is how we will be able to get a market for the products and find a way for women to earn a good permanent income.

In that note, I would like to announce the changes made to the current academic curriculum. The official education system isn’t just about learning from a book. Our government’s aim is to ensure that no kid is left out of the education system and in the work environment after completing studies.

So in order to achieve that we have introduced this new stream into the curriculum. We have introduced a media stream. Special skills are being taught from TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training). So when it is time for children’s higher education, if they find difficulties in going for higher education they can get ahead through the media stream or even through Tvet. Through these kinds of skills or by learning these practical skills they become employable from the moment they leave school. Like an internship, we have come up with work apprenticeship program and skill apprenticeship program placements at government companies and private companies. These programs are popular among the students.

More than 20% students from the grades 8,9,10 are in this stream now. So that shows that there are children who want to learn skills apart from studies. Furthermore, I am happy to announce, that there are more skills to be introduced in the education system, than work skills.

Life skills have been introduced. Life skills are certainly required for you women. Women are the people who get more neglected in daily life. When things heat up at home, women takes the heat. When it comes to looking for work even they bear it and take that responsibility. Even when children are unhappy, women handles the situation. So in order to handle conflicts, we need to learn how to handle it. These are life skills. You don’t learn these from a book or learn from the official curriculum system. Even so, we have included this in our government’s policy.

So these are essential skills, especially for women. In conflicting situations more can be achieved. So from there, you need to decide how to tackle the situation. When we include in the education system, Islamic Studies, Life skills and workplace education/workplace integration programs in it, what we are trying to do is preparing students for life. We are trying to give a holistic package. The whole purpose of these would be so that we get more people who would participate in expo’s like this. More women participate in these. The other biggest satisfaction our government will get from these would be when there will be an assured job waiting for every female school leaver. That would be a great fulfillment.

The majority of our population are women. The other night in my speech I have said that for every 100 men, there will be 103 women. So job opportunities for women need to be increased. Work area needs to be improved. Apart from this, in order to do more for you women, our government has done work. Especially when you fall seriously ill or during the pre-maternity and post-maternity period, we have made it possible for you to work at home. While staying at home you are able to do your government work. So in the same way while working at home using the learned skills you have, create skilled products.

So for you women, we are doing a lot of work. We want to support you all. Our government will not marginalise women. You won’t be taken of your rights. And so, the mentioned talents and job opportunities are done proactively to provide all these for you. An expo like this is certainly to showcase your talents and we get to see your capability and dedication.

It won’t be easy for me to thank the person who organized this, yet I would like to say First Lady deserves praise. It is her passion to promote women’s work, empower them and to make them economically productive. We can see that she never likes to stay at home. We can get some kind of an idea the amount of time she spent when she visited this expo and returned home. First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim is doing a lot of hard and well deserving work. For that, I would like to congratulate the First Lady. I would like to see you continue the work with dedication.

All will not do political work. However, caring for people is also some sort of a political work. To care for people is not because you promised them something. People come to the government by making some pledges. It is done by people who are running for office. So if people like us are not able to organize more expo’s like this, we will make pledges. We are preparing new pledges for 2018 as well. So with the way how Maldives has developed now and how things have been arranged for Maldives, we are looking for new heights. So with those new pledges next year we will have a political meeting. I want to make Maldives one of the most developed nations in this region. So we are trying to reach out for any person’s passion, in any work that they do, and not necessarily political work. We are trying to win a person’s heart and mind. So to win you women folks heart and mind we are doing works for your rights, to empower you and strengthen you, and when you work with that dedication in the work environment, it shows that you women folks can and are able to work equally as men.

So certainly First Lady Madam deserves praise in her work. And I would like to echo and reiterate what the previous speakers said and congratulate and thank Fathimath Ibrahim again.

We are also waiting eagerly for the moment to see the expo. So I won’t be wasting more time. While ending my speech, I would like to say that certainly in an expo like this we get to see women’s skills. There are more exhibits displayed in this expo compared to a national expo. This is the first time it is specially dedicated to women. I want to continue to see work from Madam’s team and similar work from Ministry of Economic Development. Certainly, it is not easy to organize such an expo. However, if we continue to organize such expos, we will be able to preserve the fading skills as skills that people can learn. We have seen so many young women among the winners. That shows their level of interest. Whether it is the government or some other party, this has to be continued. So I would like to thank and congratulate the organizers and others for their work. I expect more expos in the future.

It is not an easy task to do the judging. It is a very problematic formidable task. So when the judges make their judgment, it won’t be easy to satisfy all the exhibitors. Judging is always the biggest issue when it comes to an expo like this. When I was the Trade Minister during President Maumoon’s office, while waiting for him to inaugurate an expo, which was happening any moment, I will get to hear complaints about the judgment. So it shows judging is not easy work. So I would like to thank all judges of this expo for their work. For you women folks, this was done entirely voluntarily. I want to see in whatever work that you do that you work with more vigor than now.

Naturally, every day dies when night falls, we also go through a temporary “death”. However, I hope that with the seeping sunlight at the break of dawn you will go forward and persevere with hope and determination. Yet again the next day ends too and the next night follows. I wish that women continue their work in this manner, with zeal and enthusiasm.

Our government will certainly mind your rights and appreciate your hard work and contributions in the work done to build a nation. I would like to congratulate you all. I would like to thank the participants and their many supporters who have attended this meeting. I hope and wish that god grants us success in all your endeavors, including your private work. May god blesses and grants us all with what we are trying to achieve in unity. Have a good night.

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