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Resilience and Leadership amidst a global pandemic. Celebrating Women in Maritime

Suva, Fiji – A call to raise awareness on the importance of gender equality to highlight the valuable yet under-utilised contribution of women in the Pacific’s maritime sector was made by international and regional maritime organisations at the conclusion of the Women in Maritime celebrations this week.

In the Pacific, it is estimated that there are 16,000 persons working in the maritime sector and less than 10% of these are women. Globally, women represent only 2% of the 1.2 million seafarers.

These statistics were backed by the perception, and often the reality, that a ship is not a safe environment for women, reinforcing the traditional view that a woman’s place is in the kitchen is culturally entrenched in families and societies.

On 18 May, the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Pacific Women In Maritime Association (PacWIMA) and the IMO Regional Women In Maritime Associations and sister Associations celebrated the Day for Women In Maritime (D4WIM) with the theme “Women in Maritime: Resilience and Leadership amidst a global pandemic”.

The celebrations of the Day for Women in Maritime (D4WIM) was centred around the statistics that proved that Pacific women in the maritime sector are leading the way, surpassing the global gender average of women seafarers.

“The vision is for D4WIM to become a global phenomenon with the focus on women in, and intending to join, the maritime sector. It should encourage governments, maritime administrations, ship owners, ship operators, and all other relevant agencies to take action, set clear targets and see some tangible outcomes, namely, more women in leadership roles, more women being visible in the sector, and more women having equal access to capacity-building opportunities” Dinah Inape-Omenefa, Chairperson for PacWIMA.

As part of its efforts to put SDG 5 at the heart of discussions, SPC in partnership with IMO is working to ensure better access for women and ensure that they are equally represented at all levels, including leadership levels.  Since 2005, IMO and SPC have partnered to develop a Pacific woman in maritime network and support activities to facilitate equal education and training opportunities.

“The PacWIMA/Pacific-led Day for Women In Maritime provides a great opportunity to raise the profile of women’s leadership, resilience and contributions to the maritime industry, to highlight that the maritime sector is at the heart of post-COVID-19 recovery, and to promote women’s strengths as essential to a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable maritime sector going forward, both regionally and globally” says IMO’s Chris Trelawny, Chief – Subdivision for Maritime Development of the Technical Cooperation Division.

It is critical Women today excel in every single field of work especially the maritime sector. More women need to play important roles in the industry, to be in-charge of a vessel and other critical roles along the value chain.

“Gender equality is unfinished business for the 21st century and women at the helm should not be out of ordinary. SPC will continue to support PacWIMA to provoke the necessary conversations and actions to make this a reality” says Jens Kruger, SPC’s Deputy Director for the Ocean and Maritime Programme. Despite the economic disruption, in terms of the global trade and the job loss for seafarers and even shore-based personnel, the Pacific must summon resilience and in turn, foster greater collaboration, amidst a pandemic that has created a platform and shifted how the regional and global community conducts its new ways of business, capacity development and making the space for women in maritime.

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