WMUWA International Women's Day Event
On 11 March, the WMU Women’s Association (WMUWA) hosted an International Women’s Day (IWD) seminar for students and staff reflecting the official IWD 2019 theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart and Innovate for Change”.
Opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU. She noted that in 1992, IMO made an estimation that 1 or 2 per cent of the total seafaring population were women, including those who work in service sections on board ships, such as hotel and catering personnel. In 2003 - 13 years later - while at the International Labour Organization, a study on Women Seafarers was commissioned and published under her responsibility and estimated that the percentage of women in maritime was between 1 and 2 per cent of the total seafaring population. According to the 2015 BIMCO/ICS manpower report, the percentage of women seafarers was still only 1 per cent. The conclusion is that women’s participation in seafaring jobs continues to be as low as it was 25 years ago.
President Doumbia-Henry noted that the progress for gender equality is slow due in part to a growing gender digital divide resulting in women being under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so called STEM fields. She maintained the importance of International Women’s Day that highlights the roles of industry leaders, game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists, and women innovators to examine the ways in which innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, encourage investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls. “Remember that innovation and technology create unprecedented opportunities for women and girls to play an active role in building more inclusive systems, efficient services and sustainable infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and gender equality,” she stated.
Welcome remarks were made by Carol Schroeder, the current WMUWA President. She noted that all individuals have an important role to play in promoting gender equality and she emphasized the important role of the WMUWA in connecting and inspiring women in the maritime industry as well as promoting female maritime professionals. She stated, “We must, without fail, continue the gender equality dialogue, drive and follow through on the vision and objectives of the UN SDG 5 in our respective countries beyond WMU. This is of course an immense task that cannot be done alone and therefore I call upon all everyone sitting here today to be united in diversity, as each of us have a role to play in realizing the goals of gender equality and no contribution will be too small. This will not be easy, but make no mistake it is possible.”
The guest speaker for the event was Mr. Samuel A. Adewole, Social Scientist and IT Consultant. He encouraged a pro-active approach in the workplace, taking on challenging tasks that demonstrate ability and competency. Further, he emphasized the importance of mentorship, professionalism, and leadership. “Find what you are good at, and shine that gift to the world,” he stated.
A video message was delivered from Captain Rhadkia Menon, recipient of the 2016 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery. She highlighted the importance of believing in yourself and being assertive, noting that there is no substitute for competency. In addition, several WMU students, both male and female, presented their unique career and life situations and perspectives regarding gender equality. The event concluded with a panel discussion.
The objectives of the WMUWA are to connect, educate and inspire women in the maritime industry and to promote the interests of female maritime professionals through the creation of an international network for women from the WMU and women involved in other internationally recognized female associations in the maritime sector.
International Women’s Day (IWD) was established in the early 1900s and celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and is celebrated annually on 8 March.
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