Balance for better: Empowering women in maritime domain

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By Ubaid Ahmed

Inequalities and injustices in a society mainly pertaining to women are often associated with the pay gaps; the physical and psychological violence; public prominence and health issues. However, no reference is often made to these inequalities in the maritime domain.

Nevertheless gender balance is a call to action across the world to address the subject. Whilst this balance can be attained and sustained by empowering women by removing structural barriers, building good networks and supporting quality education to ensure no women is left behind particularly in the maritime sector which remain significantly under represented.

Empowering women fuels thriving economies across the world, spurs growth and development, and benefits everyone working in the global maritime community in the drive towards safe, secure, clean and sustainable shipping.

Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political portrayal. This conduct mainly is the result of the fact that throughout the course of history human beings are never defined as living beings but by their bodies outlining their distinctive roles as males or females.

Besides, it is generally recognized and well acknowledged that corporations and boards are more successful when there are women as leaders and board members. Shipping, the world’s second seasoned and oldest industry and the first global business however, lags behind most industries, simply based on the historic career path into the maritime industry.

Certain aspects of shipping were seen as not well suited to women, as they demanded extreme physical labor, and maritime academies traditionally had an all-male structure. However the past few decades have seen a reasonable move and opportunities for women to participate in this exciting, dynamic industry are created and increasing every day. In this regard the global initiative led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) needs a special mention for it has encouraged its member states to open doors to women in the shipping industry and maritime institutes to enable them to train alongside men and acquire the high level of competence that the maritime industry demands.

The IMO continues to support the participation of women in both shore based and sea going posts, in line with the goals outlined under the UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to “Promote gender equality and empower women”, under the slogan: Training, Visibility and Recognition.

Additionally, In line with the IMO’s initiative to empower women in maritime sector Pakistan Navy being a major stakeholder in the maritime domain takes lead in creating awareness about promoting gender equality in ocean-related fields, including marine scientific research, oceanography, fisheries, marine policy making and management.

Pakistan Navy also has women in white which are inducted in supporting roles in departments, such as education, medical, public relations, information technology, law and logistics as commissioned officers. They might not have the similar career paths vis-à-vis their male counterparts yet these ladies undergo the same kind of six-month of rigorous training at the Naval Academy, attempted by them alongside men.

In addition, they also participate in practical leadership exercises, sports and co-curricular activities to further enhance their skills and strength, making them more suitable for playing their roles.

To further the role of women in the maritime domain, bold and innovative steps ought to be taken globally by opening new avenues but at the same time by addressing the issues faced by women in this still male dominated industry. Diversity and equality accounts for innovation for which no women is certainly not an option.

To conclude women empowerment is primarily constituted of five components (like their sense of worth, right to regulate their choices, access to the opportunities and leadership, their instinctive ability to direct a social change and their right to have access to the power circles and to have power) which are eventually essential for women’s autonomy; improvement of their political, social, economic and health status and for the achievement of sustainable development and balance; the balance for a better world.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]