Moomina Waheed

Role: Commissioner at Human Rights Commission of the Maldives
Active in Country: Maldives
DTP Alumna: 2010 Migrant Workers Program - Indonesia

Moomina Waheed was recently appointed as a Human Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM). She started her career at HRCM as a Research Officer (main task: investigations) in 2004. Her interest in social issues deepened and after her Bachelor's degree in Business, she joined the HRCM as Planning Officer and later worked as Director Cooperate Affairs. Eventually she was designated as a migrant worker focal point for the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, and for HRCM.

Moomina’s interest in human rights grew after working at HRCM. Her exposure to economic, social and cultural issues in the country led her to pursue her Masters’ degree in Human Rights and Democratization. In 2008, her interest in Migrant Workers Rights expanded when Moomina was part of a research team that conducted ‘Rapid Assessment of the Housing Situation in the Maldives’ and ‘Rapid Assessment of the Employment Situation in the Maldives’.

“I saw the conditions of migrant workers and heard concerns directly from them for the first time in my career, and this affected me greatly.”

In 2009, HRCM also conducted research on human trafficking in Maldives (research report unpublished). Moomina’s work in this regard provided an opportunity to visit a tourist resort under construction, where she witnessed real issues of human trafficking. She emphasises that seeing the way migrants were treated, the conditions they worked in and the way they lived were decisive factors motivating her to work for Migrant Workers’ Rights.

Moomina’s training with DTP’s Migrant Workers Programme in 2010 was her first training program in her efforts to learn more about Migrant Workers’ Rights.

"The program was an eye opener to such issues. Participants got to hear the issues in other countries and the work they are doing. After the training programs, I applied the training and also conducted sessions for staff at HRCM, and HRCM also started doing the advocacy for this right extensively from there on."

She still applies the knowledge and information to this day via resolving cases and planning advocacy programs. In 2021, HRCM plans to conduct integrated  Human Rights Training Programs across the country and is also planning to launch a national inquiry on issues related to migrant workers. In these dialogues, HRCM will be working to develop a mechanism to address systemic human rights issues and work towards implementing the recommendations of  UN treaty bodies and the UPR. HRCM will closely work with all relevant stakeholders including state authorities to promote human rights in the country.

Moomina stresses that migrant workers are important pillars for economic growth yet are a disadvantaged group. Exploitation of migrant workers by human traffickers, including fraudulent recruitment, forced labour practices, confiscation of identity documents, withholding travel documents and non-payment of wages are just some of the major concerns that need to be addressed

“While international migrants constituted less than 4% of the Maldives population in 1990, it had increased to over 25% in 2015…”

When asked about housing issues that migrant workers face, Moomina mentions that research has been done showing that accommodations are severely overcrowded, resulting in unfavourable and unhygienic living conditions. Hence, the government has been working to move them to better accommodation facilities.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many migrant workers lost their employment and wages, and hence have had difficulty accessing healthcare and other services. Moomina mentions that reaching these disadvantaged groups during a lockdown was a challenge. As the situation gradually improves, HRCM is working more closely with the affected in investigating the human rights issues.

Moomina mentions that the public perception of HRCM has unfortunately lessened. There is a general public perception that HRCM is silent and political, and hence not fulfilling its legal obligations. Moomina hopes to improve the public perception of the Commission, and increase its credibility as an institution that stands up for the rights of citizens and of the people living within the jurisdiction of the Maldives, including migrant workers.

Moomina encourages those with an interest in participating in DTP’s programs to go for it, as the programs are useful and DTP provides a platform for sharing of practical information and building technical knowledge.

“The DTP’s program is one that you would always be glad to have been a part of, as it gives very clear and useful insights into the kind of situations you might encounter in your career.”

Moomina’s role model is her father, who exemplifies all the qualities that she values, who makes her proud and to whom she credits her work ethics, values, and principles. As she pursues on in her chosen career path, she hopes to highlight more than ever that migrant worker rights are human rights and cannot be neglected. One cannot forget what migrant workers have contributed to the nation, and addressing and protecting their issues and rights fosters a healthy economy and social life in the country.

 

 
Profile written December 2020.