To understand the background of the Society for Health Education it is very important to understand the uniqueness of Maldives the country’s geographical setting.
The Republic of Maldives has achieved dramatic improvements in its socio-economic status during the past few decades. These are quite significant milestones for a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). The total landmass of the 1192 coral islands of the country is less than one percent of its geographical territory of 90,000 sq. km. About 70,000 people, or one-quarter of the population, reside in the capital, Male’. The rest of the population lives on 198 islands, resulting in an average population size of 1000 for an island community. However, only 29% or 57 islands (excluding Male’) support a population of 1000 people or more. And only four islands, including Male’, have a population exceeding 5,000 inhabitants. Close to 40% (76 islands) have a population less than 500 people. Population density of the communities also varies significantly with some islands being sparsely populated while others are severely congested. The density of Male’ is among the highest in the world and exceeds 30,000 people per sq. km.
The island communities of the Maldives are widely dispersed over a large surface area of open sea. This predominance of the sea over land, thus presents a wide range of developmental obstacles, especially for organizing transportation and communication services. The natural geography of the Maldives has significantly hindered the mobility of the people and the efficient delivery of necessary services. Low population concentration has further exacerbated this obstacle by the inherent difficulty in attaining economies of scale within an island setting, and consequently inhibiting the establishment of utilities and effective health services to these small communities.
The broad-based population pyramid of the Maldives, relies on two dominant sectors for economic development, while the high import dependency imposes stresses on the resources available for developmental activities and for the provision of services.
Such numerous challenges notwithstanding, the country has remained firm in its determination to reduce disparity between the socio-economic hub of the country’s capital, Male’ and the other regions. The benefits of this policy are being experienced throughout the scattered islands of the Republic. This dynamic transformation is indicated by the high rates of adult literacy and school enrolment. Mortatlity rates have markedly decreased and there is a remarkable gains in life expectancy, the widening access to basic amenities such as electricity and telephone, and has resulted in the visible improvement of the quality of life.
While socio-economic development shows great progress, there are certain areas of the social sector that demand urgent attention to rectify the current situation. Public awareness of specific health and social issues such as nutrition and healthy dietary habits, healthy lifestyles, contraceptive acceptance, attitudinal changes to achieve better health, mental health and related issues, are emerging as areas that need to be addressed.
The challenges highlighted above reaffirm the need to find options and devise new strategies to minimise the effect of the underlying social problems. Recognising this unfulfilled need, the Society for Health Education (SHE) has been taking the pioneering initiatives of identifying strategies that could facilitate improvements in family well-being and quality of life.
Society for Health Education (SHE) is a nation-wide non-profit, non-government organization well accepted by the country for its work in the field of health and social well-being of all the communities within the country. This NGO was founded by four women in 1988, with the modest plans of catering for women health and well-fare. Since that day onwards SHE continues to improve the quality of life of Maldivian families. The organization reaffirms its commitment to sustain these initiatives, and to further increasing public awareness on issues that influence family well-being. Today after 20 years, the organization has become one of the largest, most vibrant NGOs in the Maldives which not only addresses issues concerning women, but the issues of Thalassaemia, HIV/AIDS, Psychosocial counseling and reproductive health.