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Speakers demand more support for women in maritime sector

By: Maclean Kwofi
Mrs Jemilat Jawulaa Mahamah, President, Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) delivering the welcome address at the ceremony in Accra.
Mrs Jemilat Jawulaa Mahamah, President, Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) delivering the welcome address at the ceremony in Accra.

A three-day conference to harness the role of women in the maritime industry has ended with a call for the creation of more opportunities for women to participate in the industry.

One after the other, speakers at the event took turns to make a strong case for the need for women to be given the necessary support to excel in the shipping industry.

It was the sixth Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Africa Region Conference which opened on April 2 and ended on April 4.

On the theme: “The Role of Women in Harnessing the Potential of Africa’s Blue Economy”, the conference served as a platform for women to discuss issues affecting them in the industry.

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr Kitack Lim, observed that the IMO’s commitment to the cause of women in the maritime industry could not be overemphasised as this year’s World Maritime Day would focus on women.

“We are committed to making 2019 a year of action; a year to break down barriers and start activities and projects to empower women in the maritime community,” he said.

He explained that through its Women in Maritime Programme, IMO had been driving the change towards more gender equality in the maritime professions.

“This programme was initiated in 1988. At that time, only a few maritime training institutes opened their doors to female students.
“Since then, IMO has actively supported and promoted access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector,” he said.

According to him, IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through fellowships by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries.

He stated the establishment of professional Women-in-Maritime associations, particularly in developing countries. Under IMO's auspices, seven Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) have been established.

“Here in Africa, as well as in the Arab States, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific. Together they embrace some 152 countries and dependent territories.”

Community of women in maritime
The President of WISTA Ghana, Mrs Jemilat Jawulaa Mahamah, said the harnessing of the potential of Africa’s blue economy requires the inclusive participation of all citizens of the continent of which women and girls, in particular, must play a key role.

He said creating a community of experienced women in maritime occupation needed to take place at several levels and in various sectors of the industry, adding however, that that should not occur at the expense of seafaring experience, maritime education and training.

He called for changes in infrastructure that would ensure women’s physical security on board ships, such as changing and sleeping facilities, separate toilets and access to personal hygienic products.

Creation of opportunities
In a speech read on his behalf, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, called for the creation of more opportunities for women participation in the maritime sector, particularly in Africa to fully harness the huge potential of the continent’s blue economy.

According to him, women formed a very significant percentage of the population of Africa and their role in any development effort could not be overlooked.

“However, the International Transport Workers’ Federation estimates that only two per cent of the world’s maritime workforce are women. I believe the time is now to change this statistics by enhancing opportunities for women participation in the sector,” he stressed.

The Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, noted that the government was making efforts to empower women in its governance process and the maritime sector.

He mentioned the appointments of the first woman Director of Tema Port and Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority as evidence.