World Maritime Day 2019

World Maritime Day 2019 will be celebrated at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters in London on 26 September. This year’s theme of "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community" provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and to highlight the important - yet under-utilized - contribution of women within the maritime sector. 

Participants at the WMU Third International Women's Conference: Empowering Women in the Maritime Community

The maritime industry is still one of the most under-represented sectors of economic activity for women. Over the last 27 years, the percentage of women seafarers has remained at one to two percent. In early April this year, the World Maritime University (WMU) hosted the Third WMU International Women’s Conference on Empowering Women in the Maritime Community. The conference brought various maritime and ocean stakeholders together to discuss the common challenges of gender equality. Over 350 participants from more than 70 countries adopted conclusions identifying 17 actions that could be taken to advance gender balance in the maritime and oceans sectors. 

At the recent World Maritime Day Parallel Event in Colombia, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the WMU, delivered a keynote address and announced the release of the Conference Report, highlighting key elements among the conclusions including the importance of:

  • Implementing gender-responsive policies;
  • Updating data and statistics on women professionals in all sea-related activities;
  • Promoting role models;
  • Engaging with children in primary and secondary education to raise awareness of career opportunities in the industry;
  • Establishing mentoring programmes;
  • Securing priority funding for gender research;
  • Emphasizing gender equality as a business case; and last but not least;
  • Ensuring equal employment opportunities and equal pay for work of equal value.

In further support of advancing gender equality in the oceans sector, over the next 36 months, WMU will implement a research project entitled Empowering Women for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the project emphasizes WMU’s commitment to support and strengthen the evidence base on gender equality in ocean science. The research aims to remove barriers to women’s participation in both the conduct of ocean science and within science dependent governance systems.

President Doumbia-Henry acknowledged the exceptional opportunity this year’s World Maritime Day theme provides to address the gender inequality that exists in the maritime and ocean sectors. “We cannot let this unique opportunity to make change elude us. We must seize this momentum and collectively take proactive steps in order to achieve transformative change,” she said. The President emphasized that if we each adopt and implement at least one of these 17 actions in the long term, “together we will contribute to the sustainable development of a gender sensitive maritime and ocean sectors that will result in a better and more prosperous future for us all.”

Since the University was founded in 1983, WMU has aimed to improve gender balance in maritime and ocean-related fields in higher education and research. Female student representation at WMU has improved significantly from 3% in 1983 to 34% in 2019 in the MSc programme in Maritime Affairs delivered in Malmö, Sweden. The Class of 2019 in the WMU MSc in International Transport & Logistics programme delivered in Shanghai, China, achieved gender parity.

About World Maritime Day

World Maritime Day was first held in 1978 to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the IMO Convention that established the Organization. Since then, World Maritime Day celebrations have been held throughout the world to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment and to emphasize a particular aspect of IMO's work. Since 2005, in addition to the official IMO celebrations held at IMO Headquarters in London, there has been a Parallel Event hosted by a member State. 

To view the 2019 World Maritime Day video featuring IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Kitack Lim, who serves as Chancellor of WMU and is a WMU alumnus, click here.

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