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Learning lessons from past International women’s day celebrations

By Emma Seline Okello | March 8th 2021

Today marks the day when women across the globe come together in thoughts and spirit to appreciate efforts in a world that is already giving in to their aspirations.

It turns out that over the recent past, women have made a significant impact in the global arena. Of significance was the election of the first US female vice president Kamala Haris, making history close to that when the US elected the first black American president, Barrack Obama.

Shortly after the World Trade Organization (WTO) elected Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as Director-General making her the first female and African to hold that position.

These events clearly show that women, given equal opportunities, are capable of steering critical roles that aid in driving the world economy. The United Nations under its agency UN Women theme for this year’s “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” could not have come at a better time when women are continually making an impact across the globe.

In the maritime sector, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has been at the forefront of championing the inclusivity of women in leadership positions.

Statistics from IMO show that women represent two per cent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers and 94 per cent of female seafarers working in the cruise industry.

This is the reason the world body has been championing efforts to steer the industry towards supporting women to achieve a representation that is in keeping with today’s expectations.

IMO deserves accolades as it has been at the forefront in enhancing the capacity of women through the "Women in Port Management" course. The course provides participants with the necessary skills to improve the management and operational efficiency of their ports. IMO’s strong belief that the maritime industry needs more women, particularly in leadership roles. To encourage this trend IMO has been supporting a training course aimed at female officials from maritime and port authorities participate.

The global winds of change are pushing the sails driving the women’s agenda further in the deep waters mainly dominated by men. But the women in the maritime are increasingly encountering emerging issues that are threatening the success of the women agenda.

This has also been coupled with the emergence and prevalence of COVID-19 hampering the effective participation of women in decision making.

This calls for increased capacity building and training opportunities by IMO to continue empowering women with skills that will eventually see them take an equal share of seats at the table where decisions are made.

This will give them a voice in shaping key policies that will eventually deliver a more equitable future. Seen as a male-dominated field, the capacity building initiatives by the world maritime body aims at catapulting women into these positions.

It is for this reason that recognition of women should go beyond wishing themselves happy international women day then go back to cocoons and conduct business as usual. Instead, each year and each celebration, women should look back and take stock of successes made.

Learning from each year’s experiences, the challenges encountered and barriers to success must form the basis of discussions each year. This will ensure that every year as the world celebrates International Women’s day, milestones will be realised.

Slowly by slowly, women in the maritime sector will realise the coveted UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly Goal 5 “Achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls.  

Women should take up the challenges ahead head on to position themselves and aligning to the opportunities without waiting for favours and sympathy appointments.

This will ensure that the women in the maritime sector not only celebrates and benchmarks with women achievers in the other sectors such as politics, commerce and trade but also gets an opportunity to celebrate one of their own.

The writer is a Maritime and logistics expert
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