Preparing for the New Generation
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, WMU President, delivered the keynote address at the 37th Women in Shipping and Trading (WISTA) International Conference that was held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands from 3 to 6 October. The focus of the conference was on future-proof maritime solutions.
The President congratulated WISTA on their efforts in enhancing opportunities for, and supporting the role of women in the maritime industry on a global level and for receiving the SAFETY4SEA Sustainability Award. She noted the importance of promoting gender equality in all sectors of economic activity, and the contribution that the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 as revised is making, as the most gender-sensitive maritime instrument of our time.
Two central themes of the President’s remarks related to current trends concerning maritime women and sustainable development in the maritime industry and the crucial role of maritime education and training. She noted that to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), we need women as well as men. Among the 17 UN SDGs, four of them are of particular importance and have been integrated into the strategic directions of WMU: Goal 4 - to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; Goal 5 - to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth; and Goal 14 - to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. These particular goals - education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and Oceans - all connect to the underlying theme of “Preparing for the new generation”.
WMU is keenly focused on increasing women’s participation and access to educational opportunities in the maritime sector, including at the post-graduate level. Women’s participation in seafaring jobs remains as low as it was 25 years ago, between 1 and 2 per cent of the total seafaring population. What has been hindering progress in achieving greater gender equality in the maritime sector is the long misplaced perception that women are not suitable for working on board ships due to the nature of seafaring. In 1995, WMU had less than less than 8 per cent of women enrolled in its Master of Science programme. In 2016-2017, women made up 37 per cent of the student intake. In total, since the establishment of WMU in 1983, out of the total of 4,359 graduates, 857 are women, almost 20 per cent.
With respect to the rapidly changing technological landscape and the globalisation in technology use, the President emphasized that maritime education and training should endeavour to impart knowledge and the right attitudes to develop global maritime citizens who embrace innovation in keeping with fundamental human values and who ethically use technology to advance global goals. “This kind of development should not solely focus on just educating tomorrow’s industry actors and maritime leaders based solely on past and present labour markets, but dynamically interrogate future possibilities – including the growing influence of technology – to create opportunities for the beneficial use of technology and to find innovative solutions for the pressing needs of today and those anticipated for the future. Preparing for the new generation demands that we can stand together, to increase the attractiveness of shipping as both a career path for young people and for lifelong learners,” she stated.
President Doumbia-Henry is an honorary member of WISTA Italy and affiliated to WISTA Sweden.