Being the free-spirit that I am, I struggle with the hierarchical tradition in maritime. I’ve never been one to separate myself from other people based on my stance in life or rank my importance in comparison to the next person, but I’ve had to work my way around it. Sometimes, I’ve reluctantly used it to my benefit because sometimes the relevance of your statement/opinion depends largely on who you are and what title you hold.
All the time, as a Marine Surveyor I had to deal with clients waiting for the Surveyor to come because clearly I wasn’t it. I’d be fully kitted but they’d still be looking around. I’ve gone into meetings where everyone in the room (including other women) assumed that I was there to take minutes and not part of the technical discussion so I’d be asked who would be coming for the meeting from the technical side without giving me a chance to introduce myself. For me gender, race and age have been a huge factor to many of my challenges within the marine space, I’d always either been made to feel like I’m too young to be heard or too feminine to know what the hell’s going on.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s just on the IMO’s part because States (Members or not) would also have to come to the party for those areas within maritime that aren’t governed fully by IMO. National legisltations are just as limiting and discriminative. Setting of laws and policies for marine-related industries should include women, a 50/50 representation would be ideal, no one should be thinking on our behalf, we are there and available to represent our own selves. Make away with the belief that women will hinder operations just because they have the ability to fall pregnant, but rather to have policies that are flexible enough to cater for the human needs of everyone taking into consideration every aspect of their being. Criminalise offenders in the maritime space that assault, harass and threaten women’s safety on board ships, I’d like to see sexual crimes be treated as seriously as drug-trafficking on board ships.
Thembela is a currently a Master Mariner