Seychelles has joined an internationally recognised association for women in the maritime sector, WOMESA, after the launching of the local affiliate group.
WOMESA-Seychelles will operate under the aegis of the Women in the Maritime Sector in East and Southern Africa (WOMESA).
The chair of the local group, Veronica Bristol, said the group's primary objective is to promote women's access to quality employment and to lobby for a higher percentage of women at the senior management level within the maritime sector in Seychelles.
WOMESA is made up of 50 members, drawn from countries within East and Southern African. It was launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in December 2007, in Mombasa, Kenya.
The launching of WOMESA-Seychelles took place on Friday at the 8th annual WOMESA conference at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay resort and casino on the northern side of the main island, Mahe.
The focal point for IMO in the maritime corporation division, Helen Buni, said she is fascinated by the Seychelles' integration of women in society.
"Upon my arrival in the Seychelles, the immigration official who greeted me with a smile was female, the traffic policeman was female, and upon arriving at the hotel, the receptionist was also female," said Buni.
The chair of the local association said that Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is going in the right direction as more Seychellois women are taking up high-level position.
Bristol said that the launching of the local association "comes at an opportune time as IMO is encouraging its member states to put more emphasis on incorporating women in the maritime field."
She added that as the chair, she is going to take it as a commitment to encourage young girls in Seychelles to take up a career in the maritime industry.
A participant at the conference, Chipilino Mponda, working with a Malawian shipping company, said that being a captain is not easy.
"As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it is very hard at the beginning to earn respect from man as they tend to think that women cannot be in a position of control," said Mponda.
She added that the post carries a heavy responsibility. "I am a captain of both cargo and passenger ship. The biggest cargo ship is 750 tonnes, and the passenger ship takes 460 passengers. The responsibility of carrying the passengers safely to their destination is always on your shoulders."
"Seychelles has a whole has benefited through IMO sponsorship. It has provided scholarships to some of WOMESA-Seychelles members for further training in maritime law in Malta," Bristol said.