WOMEN who are professionals in the maritime sector met in Walvis Bay on Tuesday for the fifth annual general conference of the Women in the Maritime Sector East and Southern Africa Association (Womesa).
About 45 women from 24 countries participated in the event. Their professions are in maritime and fisheries administration and law, shipping, marine engineering, transport and freight services.
Womesa was formed in 2007 under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Integration of Women in the Maritime Section programme that seeks to empower women in this sector.
Its mission is to advocate gender equity, improve women’s access to maritime training and technology and promote their advancement to key decision-making levels in the maritime sector in East and Southern Africa.
According to Womesa chairperson Nancy Karigithu, there is already increased participation of women in the sector.
She said that to stimulate this growth, the perception of the sector being only suitable for men has to change.
“This is one of the biggest challenges we face. It’s a traditional mindset that has to be changed. Leadership positions are not gender based. It can go to anyone, man or woman, who has what it takes to fill the role,” she said.
IMO’s technical cirector, Pamela Tarnsey, said: “We are not here for women; we are here for the sector; it’s safety and its people.”
The chairperson of the Namibian Chapter of Womesa, who is the executive human resources officer at Namport, Haritha Muyoba, said the Namibian government has measures in place to increase the presence of women in all spheres of economic development.
“The maritime sector seems to be a males-only job, but women in Africa are making headway, and we in Namibia are proud of the support we get from our government,” she said.