Gone is the myth that ‘women are bad luck at sea’. This is an old saying but, living in the twenty-first century, we clearly understand that it is just a superstition.
It is time to change this statistic by enhancing opportunities for women to be educated and gain experience in maritime activities. Equally important is changing the culture in the maritime sector to reduce the prejudices women encounter on a daily basis. Fortunately, there is evidence that efforts to do so are yielding results, even though building experience among women in the sector is no easy task.
The long interaction of (mostly) men and the sea has also created significant cultural barriers to the participation of women in seafaring. This is, however, no excuse for the continued exclusion of women, or for failing to support the many women who have pushed past out-dated gender norms and made great strides in improving the participation of women in maritime.
Although women form 39.3% of the global workforce, women seafarers constitute only 2 % of the total number of seafarers worldwide, creating a need for the shipping community to bridge this gender gap. Several organizations, unions and companies have set the ground in the last decade for creating a greater awareness to people generally and sensitize specifically the male seafarers towards acceptance of women onboard.
A looming problem will be how the role and contribution of women in maritime development is recognised and framed. If women are to be fully included in the maritime industry, discussions cannot be limited to participation in one or two areas alone such as environmental work, or entrepreneurship such as ship ownership. Creating a community of experienced women in maritime occupations needs to take place at several levels and in various sectors of the industry. Having women in positions of authority is crucial, but that must not come at the expense of seafaring experience, education and training. This also applies to the safety and security sector such as navies, coastguards and maritime authorities.
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“The Role of Women in Transport and their contribution in facilitating free trade in the SADC Region towards the 4th Industrial Revolution”