Accra, 5th September 2023: The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre (KAIPTC) has begun three-day women in maritime consultative meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
The high-level consultative meeting, a collaborative initiative between the KAIPTC and the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) aims to address the challenges in the maritime domain and unlock the full potential of women’s leadership in maritime security.
It follows an earlier symposium on women organized for women in maritime in Cotonou, Benin in July 2023 which focused on women’s role in the blue economy.
The meeting, among other objectives, will provide a platform for knowledge sharing, policy dialogue and collaboration by developing strategies and initiatives that foster gender equality, inclusivity and women’s empowerment in the maritime domain.
Major General Richard Addo Gyane, Commandant, KAIPTC, speaking at the opening of the consultative meeting, which started from September 5 to September 7, said women’s participation in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) maritime domain remains significantly lower than that of their male counterparts despite the considerable strides made in the sector.
He said as of September 2021, women made up about two per cent of the world’s seafaring workforce while female representation in leadership roles was even lower.
Maj Gen Gyane said despite the strides, there was no specific intervention for women in maritime security beyond the model of several international and regional organisations setting up branches of women associations in the maritime domain in various countries.
The Commandant said the maritime sector had traditionally been male-dominated with limited representation of women in leadership positions, adding that such gender disparities limits the potential for innovation, decision-making, and overall progress in the maritime sector.
However, Maj Gen Gyane, admitted that in recent years, there had been a growing recognition of the invaluable contributions that women could make in the maritime industry, particularly in the field of maritime security.
He identified social norms, cultural biases, and limited access to opportunities as some factors that hinder the advancement of women in maritime.
Therefore, he said, it was crucial to promote gender equality, empower women, and provide them with the necessary support, training, and mentorship to enhance their leadership capabilities in maritime security.
Maj Gen Gyane said, women’s inclusion in maritime security constituted a start in the Gulf of Guinea maritime domain, even though it could appear much greater and benefit many more women with a strategic framework that accommodates all the diverse women-related interventions in the maritime domain.
According to him, women leaders in maritime security play a vital role in addressing various challenges faced by the industry, including piracy, maritime terrorism, illicit trafficking, and environmental threats.
Their expertise and leadership, he noted, contributed to developing and implementing policies, strategies, and initiatives to ensure safety, security, and sustainability in the maritime domain.
Prof. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, KAIPTC, said fostering a collaborative partnership, sharing knowledge and experiences in an otherwise male-dominated industry was key to paving the way for a more inclusive, equitable and thriving maritime industry in Africa.
He said “The very language that we use in describing the maritime sector does not recognise the role of women even though on the African continent, women are more than 50 per cent. This language includes helmsmen, seamen and others. The African Union’s calculation of the size of the blue economy by 2070, translates to trillions of dollars. Now if you look at women’s role in the blue economy, they contribute massively to about 30-40 per cent of these incomes”.
He said recognising the significant contribution and potential of women in the maritime sector was essential for its sustainable growth, development and security.
Prof Aning said it was important to further recognise and deal with the structural stumbling blocks, while finding strategies to work effectively towards empowering women in the maritime domain.
Captain Emmanuel Bell Bell, representative of the Inter Regional Coordination Centre (ICC) for Managing Safety and Security in the GoG Maritime Domain, said the link between maritime security and the blue economy was mechanical as there could not be revenue generation at sea without the protection of the ecosystem that generated the revenue.
Women, he said, were vital players in the blue economy and maritime security as their participation was essential for creating a more robust, diverse, and effective maritime sector.
Capt. Bell noted that the trend must be reversed through legislative and practical strategies including efficient gender approaches that break down gender barriers and promoting equal opportunities for women.