­Empowering women in the ­maritime sector

Gender equality

29 October 2019 | Events

Walvis Bay •

Leandrea Louw

The Association for Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (WOMESA Namibia) hosted World Maritime Day celebrations on Friday.

WOMESA commemorated the day under the theme “Empowering women within the maritime sector”.

Speaking at the event Doreen Sioka, the ­minister of gender equality and child welfare, said the country cannot afford to have systems or structures in place that are discriminatory based on gender. “We are all aware of what is happening when it comes to gender based violence. We should talk about it and condemn it. In all our institutions and organisations employers should initiate wellness programmes to ensure that their employees are doing well both at work and at home.”

Sioka said that the legislation and policies Namibia has in place can only be fully realized with a mind shift that challenges and changes society's attitude towards gender equality. “Gender equality is not about women; it is about men and women, boys and girls given equal opportunities in all spheres of life to manifest their abilities.”

She pointed out that gender imbalance is even more profound in the traditionally male-dominated sectors that include the maritime industry, where women make up a mere 2% of the workforce.

“Although the maritime industry has adopted initiatives towards closing the existing gap, the integration of women into the maritime industry remains minimal due to various impediments. We need to zoom in and pay more attention to the maritime gender representation in our country, our fishing sector, our port and the navy.”

Sioka said that she was aware that there is an undersupply on the technical and specialized skills such as marine pilots, engineers and surveyors. “This shows that more resources should be allocated in these areas for training specifically women so that the mismatch can be phased out.”

She advised the fishing sector to advocate and mobilize financial and human resources to develop gender mainstreaming skills for the implementation of the National Gender Policy.

“This is a national challenge that requires collective efforts. A study should be undertaken immediately to provide up to date information and data on the number of women in the maritime industry across all sectors. A network platform or gender unit(s) should be established to address gender empowerment, learning and sharing best practices in a knowledge hub and build support as well as education and training initiatives to promote gender equality in the maritime and ocean communities.”

Sioka called on employers to ensure that women, youth and people with disabilities who have positives attitudes and are willing to learn, be granted opportunities to develop themselves.

She encouraged women to emancipate their minds from the old thinking of just being in the kitchen. “Embrace change, accept challenges and become roles models to everyone in your surroundings.”

Other speakers at the event included Jaqueline Kauluma, an offshore surveying specialist of Debmarine Namibia who shared her experience working as a woman in the maritime industry. Learners from various schools also attended the celebrations.