The topic of the essay "Women and Ocean" is quite intriguing 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 was to get married, have children and take care of their family and home. Thus any career path a woman chose was complementary 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 began, we were just two females, the rest of the class of 15 were 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 have 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 championed 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 23rd UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (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 concern for the safety of women onboard a ship filled with men.


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 partake in governance of the oceans for the sake of achieving sustainability. Sustainable developments need leaders that devote 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 need to be educated in sea faring experience and training on safety and security sector such as Navies, Coast guards and Maritime authorities.


Category: Intergeneration