International Women’s Day 2019 – Female Seafarers

Happy International Women’s Day 2019…a day in which we celebrate the idea that a balanced world is a better world. It is also a time for tough questions, such as how can we help forge a more gender-balanced world, how can we celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias and how can we Take action for equality?

The Seafarers Happiness Index has heard from a number of female crew over the years – sadly not enough, but that reflects the recruitment problems which seem to exist. There have been highs and lows reported by the women who spoke out, alas there were a number of instances of sexual harassment at sea. While in some cases, female seafarers also reported feeling lonely or isolated, especially when they were the only woman onboard. It was not all bad news, there were female seafarers who felt so pleased to have found a career which they loved, and who were enjoying their time at sea immensely.

On this day dedicated to women, we should celebrate the contribution of those who work in the maritime industry, and especially those at sea. For the wider perspective see and access more details of the global efforts. Remember, the 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign runs all year long. It doesn’t end on International Women’s Day.

The campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize continuous collective action, with #BalanceforBetter activity reinforced and amplified all year. What about the shipping industry? It is fair to say we have not had much success collectively when it comes to attracting female seafarers.

Back in 1988, the IMO was in the vanguard of United Nations specialized agencies that forged a global programme known as the “Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector”. The programme put in place an institutional framework to incorporate a gender dimension into IMO’s policies and procedures, with resolutions adopted to ensure access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector.

Today, IMO’s Women in Maritime programme is still going strong after 30 years of activities…but one does have to question the level of success. There should be more women seafarers – but such a generalised statement fails to capture some of the reasons there aren’t. Perhaps a better statement is that seafaring should be a career worthy of the women who might aspire to go to sea.

Read more about the Women in Maritime programme here.

Maritime women – Global leadership

The maritime industry needs more women, particularly in leadership roles. The World Maritime University (WMU) and IMO have published a book to highlight the achievements of women in the maritime sector.
The World Maritime University (WMU) book – Maritime Women: Global Leadership – is a compilation of scientific papers presented at the ‘Maritime Women: Global Leadership’ international conference hosted by WMU in 2014. You can read abstracts here.
Making Waves – film
IMO in 2015 launched the video “Making Waves: women leaders in the maritime world” in support of International Women’s Day 2015. The video reports on continuing efforts by IMO and the World Maritime University (WMU) to promote the advancement of women in shipping. It puts the spotlight on the outcome of the 2014 “Maritime Women: Global Leadership” conference held by WMU in Malmo, Sweden, and co-sponsored by IMO. The conference attracted women and men from more than 70 countries to discuss the advancement of women throughout the maritime professions.
Women at the helm – film

Another IMO film, Women at the helm , shows how the work of IMO, and others, is beginning to promote change for the better for women in shipping, and highlights first-hand experiences from some of those who have already succeeded.

The film held its official launch during the regional conference in the Republic of Korea, held in  April 2013, on the development of a global strategy for women seafarers. The conference, held in Busan, Republic of Korea, organized and funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea through the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), and hosted by the Korean Institute of Maritime and Fisheries Technology (KIMFT), together with IMO, adopted a declaration of intent towards the development of a Global Strategy for Women Seafarers. The conference adopted the Busan Declaration, in which the participants agreed to forge partnerships and solicit support of government agencies, as well as international and regional bodies to facilitate the implementation of a Global Strategy for Women Seafarers.

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