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WOMEN: THE FORGOTTEN OCEAN ENTREPRENEUR

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The topic of the essay “ ” is quite intriguing Women and Ocean and exciting, we can
relate to it because of our experiences from childhood days. Let's share with you
one of such experiences:


“I was raised in a community whose norms and values for women is to get
married, have children and take care of their family and home. Thus any career path
a woman chooses is complimentary for her to fulfill these obligations. Hence when
I chose to study Marine Geology in school, my close relatives strongly objected
even pressuring my parents to stop me from my course of study. When classes
begun, we were just two females, the rest of the class of 15 was males. I was
determined not to allow pressure to conform to traditional gender roles to affect me
emotionally and mentally, so I put in my best in my studies. During my
undergraduate training, I was involved in research projects onboard a small
research vessel called Plankton Fisher, a German research vessel donated through
the Germany-Nigerian Bilateral Cooperation to the Institute of Oceanography,
University of Calabar. At the end of my four-year course of studies, I graduated as
the overall best student in my class ” - Joan.


Her story is not an isolated one, over the years women have suffered biases
especially when it comes to professions linked to the ocean be it in marine
conservation, participation in ocean governance, industrial and small scale fisheries
or aboard ships and vessels. Sailing, surfing and maritime navigation has been
perceived as “Masculine Jobs”.


History shows that in the early 1940’s women were not allowed on research ships
because they were no vacancies for them. They were actively discouraged from
careers in science beyond nursing or home economics. However, women such as
Elizabeth Mann Borgese made vital contributions in ocean governance and its role
for international cooperation and peace building alliances. We also have Rachel
Carson, an aquatic biologist and a well known marine conservationist who
champion in the fight for control of toxic chemicals released into the ocean. Also
Sylvia Earle, despite her professional achievements as a scientific diver, she was
kept from joining an all male aquanauts team in 1960; interestingly she
subsequently led an all female aquanauts team.

The role of women as “Ocean Healers”
was recognized during the 23UN Climate Change rd Conference (COP 23) in
Bonn, Germany. It was acknowledged that when women are well represented in
decision-making processes, their ability to share skills and knowledge strengthens
the collective effort to face ocean- related challenges. On the other hand, failing to
understand the behavior of women’s role in ocean resources has resulted in
management strategies that do not work and are even counterproductive. Women
often played invisible role in fisheries. In some societies, men “fish” while women
stay at the home so they can continue with childcare and other domestic
responsibilities. These “forgotten ocean entrepreneurs”, though hard working and
unpaid, stay home to construct and mend fishing gears, collect baits, sort fishes
and handle other logistics. Presently, the International Transport Workers
Federation estimates that only 2% of the world’s maritime workforce is made up of
women; one of the impediments obviously has been the concerned for the safety of
women onboard a ship filled with men.

 Calabar

A woman ship captain with other female oceanographers onboard a
research vessel.

 

We envision a time when we will have more female ship captains and onboard
vessels/research ships we will have more women than men (Figure 1). Women will
be actively involved in public decisions about the ocean. In the fishing sector the
role of women will be appreciated and recognized; rather than be the “invisible”
workforce they will number among the “paid labour” and allowed to take on greater
responsibilities. Gone will be the days when women will be ignored, abused or
relegated to the background as insignificant but they will have equal opportunities
and privileges as the men folk.


Moving forward, there is need to remove the cultural barrier of a male-dominated
ocean world for women to access governance of the oceans for the sake of
achieving sustainability. Sustainable developments need leaders that devotes a full
time (100%) and women have a greater sense of commitment and a greater ability
to multitask; hence their taking up leadership roles within this field can achieve long
term prosperity. More and more women needs to be educated on sea faring
experience and training on safety and security sector such as Navies, Coast guards
and Maritime authorities.


 

LUKESON, JOANNA MIKE; TOBBY, VICTORIA DAVID & ESSIEN, HELEN

Category: Intergeneration

UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR, CALABAR

Nigeria