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Women and Economic Empowerment: Helping Maldivian Women Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis – World Bank Group

The World Bank has been supporting the Government of Maldives in its efforts to protect jobs and livelihoods. With the World Bank’s help, workers who lost their jobs or incomes have received an Income Support Allowance of up to MVR 5,000 (approximately $320) per month, while those whose income fell below MVR 5,000 per month have received a top-up. The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) initially provided $12.8 million for the programme under a COVID-19 Emergency Income Support Project, which has since been extended with additional financing of $21.6 million.

Since its launch, the COVID-19 Emergency Income Support Project has played a significant role in protecting the livelihoods of vulnerable workers, especially women and the self-employed. As of February 2021, about $19 million had been disbursed as income support allowance to some 18,500 workers who had either been laid off or whose income had been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Through targeted actions such as awareness initiatives, support services, and flexible requirements, emphasis is given to helping women and self-employed individuals who often lack formal contracts and are involved in informal sectors.

Like Liusha, Zahida, 30, also lost her income due to the pandemic. She was working at a concession at Male’s Velana International Airport when she was put on no-pay leave from her job in April. For women like Liusha and Zahida living in Male’ and across the archipelago, the Income Support Allowance has encouraged them to remain in the labour force.

“[The Income Support Allowance] helped me to pay my rent,” said Zahida. “Without the allowance, I cannot afford to live in Male’ … and [would] have to return back to my island.”

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Aishath Rizuna is Maldives’ first female boat captain, and several others have since followed in her footsteps to join a traditionally male-exclusive sector. Photo: KURUMBA MALDIVES

Although the Income Support Allowance is about to be concluded, women like Liusha and Zahida have much to look forward to. The COVID-19 Emergency Income Support Project is also set to finance improvements to social safety nets so they can better protect Maldivians against future shocks. Administrative systems are being enhanced to give a greater role to local councils in helping people across the archipelago access support. A new unemployment insurance program, along with a far-reaching national social protection framework, is also being formulated to help soften the blow on both employers and employees in future emergencies. The existing retirement pension scheme and other similar programmes are also being reviewed to benefit future generations of Maldivians, including women.

“Making the Income Support Allowance available to female self-employed workers in the Maldives is one of our key priorities under the project. We have encouraged and helped women in self-employment to apply for the allowance,” Thomas Walker, Senior Economist and Task Team Leader for the project said. “As the country begins its recovery journey, it is crucial that we support women to remain in the labour force.”

Economic empowerment is central to realising women’s rights, making progress towards gender equality, and reducing the likelihood of gender-based violence. The economic setbacks stemming from the COVID-19 could prevent women like Zahida and Liusha from returning to their jobs after the crisis has passed, but initiatives such as the Income Support Allowance and targeted action are set to help keep Maldivian women, especially those who are self-employed, in the labour force and economically empowered.

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL: Google News

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