New Delhi: Mariya Ahmed Didi, the defence minister of the Maldives, was the chief guest at Saturday’s ‘Passing Out Parade’ of officer cadets at the Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala, Kannur, Kerala.
She is the first foreign defence minister to review the parade at the Indian Naval Academy. A video of her watching the parade was live-streamed on Doordarshan’s YouTube channel and was also tweeted by public broadcaster Prasar Bharati.
— Prasar Bharati News Services पी.बी.एन.एस. (@PBNS_India) November 27, 2021
Didi is on a six-day official visit to India. Her visit to Kochi and Kannur began on 23 November, when Rear Admiral T.V.N. Prasanna, Chief Staff Officer (Training), Southern Naval Command, received her at the Cochin International Airport. The delegation will return to the Maldives on 28 November.
The third child in a family of 11 siblings, Didi did part of her schooling in Male and part in Bangalore (as it then was). After getting married and becoming a mother, she went on to study law.
Didi became the first female lawyer in the Maldives, getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom. She ran a private practice before joining the Attorney General’s office in 1998.
“Mariya believes that her studies laid the foundations that in order for a country to become a nation of laws and enjoy all freedoms that come along with it, democracy and the rule of law have to be introduced, nurtured and allowed to flourish,” her profile on the Maldives government website says.
However, in one of her speeches in 2007, she described September 2003 as the “turning point” in her life, when a 19-year-old boy died in the Maldives after being tortured in custody. She said the accused was not convicted, and this is when she left the government and decided to dedicate her work “to stop the torture and killings”.
She organised and participated in several protests, and has said earlier, “I have been beaten up in protests, arrested, had old urine and black engine oil thrown on me, run off the road, defamed on internet sites and in print media, etc.”
In 2007, she was awarded the ‘International Women of Courage Award’ by then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She is also the first and the only woman so far to be elected as chairperson of a major political party in the Maldives, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). It was under her leadership that the party won the first ever multi-party democratic presidential elections held in the Maldives in 2008.
She was sworn in as the Minister of Defence of the Maldives in November 2018, becoming the first woman in the history of the island nation to be appointed to the post.
She is also an avid badminton player, having won the National Badminton Championship in 1984. She took part in the National Basketball Tournament in 1995 and 1996, and her team won the championship both times. She was chosen as one of the five most valuable players in both tournaments.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)