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Blue Economy: Where To Find Opportunities As A Woman

Blue Economy: Where To Find Opportunities As A Woman

President, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Hamman delivering a paper on Women and The Blue Economy; while the moderator of the session; Mrs. Funke Agbor (SAN) is sitted behind; during the 2018 Lagos International Maritime Week.

This informative paper was presented by the President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Hamman at the recent 2018 Lagos International Maritime Week, organized by Zoe Maritime Resources Limited.


In March of 2015, John Tobin, Global Head of Sustainability at Credit Suisse said, “The “blue economy” is about conducting economic activity in a way that is consistent with the long-term capacity of marine ecosystems to sustain themselves.”

The realization of the full potential of the Blue Economy requires the effective inclusion of all societal groups, especially women, youth, local communities, and marginalized/underrepresented groups. In relation to economic development, these groups often face limited access to opportunities and public services, inadequate legal standing, poor opportunities to contribute to value addition, low benefits, and a lack of recognition of the unique and valuable role they could play in society.

Improving market infrastructure and access can also create more sustainable outcomes that benefit the economy. Building on market demand for sustainable seafood can create incentives for good practices and drive new investment opportunities related to sustainably managed fisheries and aquaculture. This informs the value of maritime activities from fishing to the final consumer.

Integration of the blue economy and the value chain approach is well-suited to fisheries, aquaculture, maritime services, tourism and for locational development that integrates multiple sectors, such as fisheries, tourism and port development. This may be useful for government authorities as they seek to cost-effectively develop and regulate coastal areas.

The use of science, data and technology is also critical to underpin governance reforms and shape management decisions on the blue economy. Without credible information on the state of the resource in a given fishery, and how quickly a population can be expected to grow and recover, it is impossible to design effective and defensible fisheries conservation and management measures. Similarly, for aquaculture to be sustainable, its environmental impacts must be measured, understood and limited.

Diversifying countries’ economies beyond land based activities and along their coasts is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth globally. Investing in improved governance will also create a pipeline of investable opportunities to grow the blue economy in a way that benefits national economies and local communities, while protecting resources for future growth.

In various Blue Economy sectors, women are directly and heavily involved. In small-scale and industrial fisheries, women’s most prominent role is in post-harvest activities, such as processing and marketing. In West Africa, as much as 80 percent of seafood is marketed by women. However, much of women’s contribution to fisheries is considered “invisible.” Gender discrimination stems from the low value attached to the work carried out by women and is perpetuated in their limited access to credit, processing technology, storage facilities, and training.

Thus despite women’s large contribution to the labor force, women often lack access to natural resources, are given inferior property rights, and receive benefits that are disproportionately low compared to their male counterparts. At the same time, women usually carry out essential household tasks, ensure food security, and are largely responsible for child-rearing. They represent a significant portion of the non-monetized core economy. In many households, women provide essential income for the family, while in singleheaded households they are the sole providers.

It is worthy to note though that the participation of women in maritime activity has been encouraged and well endorsed by the African Union (AU). Inspired calls have been made by the Former Chairperson of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to maritime associations for women in the Continent to address this gender related issue. The AU has done well to draw attention to the need for more women in the African maritime sector by facilitating spaces of dialogue and information sharing as well as promoting a blue economy that is based on gender equitable human capital.

However the reality is, only two percent of the world’s formal maritime workforce is made up of women. This is viewed in contrast to the previous discussion on the robust involvement of women in maritime related activities. This low representation of women in the formal sector is partly attributed to the nature of the industry in which the discrimination and harassment of women is rampant.

The rights of women in the maritime sector ultimately start with the rights of women on land, as maritime activity is essentially an extension of land based activity. African women have a historically organic and important link to the ocean, the memory of which needs to be invoked when harnessing the potential prospects and marine endowments of the African blue economy of which Nigeria is part. The AU has done well to profile the importance of women in the blue economy and the realisation of Agenda 2063. However, this will only be effective if women’s rights are protected in this space.


Now, on the role of WISTA, the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, is an umbrella organization of women in management positions involved in maritime transportation business and related trades worldwide.

WISTA was created by some women in shipping in the United Kingdom (UK) and the reason for the creation is that at tea break, they felt left out at the discussion that was on going at the conference they attended. It started in 1974 in the UK but Nigeria was able to key into it in 1994.

WISTA aims to be a major player in attracting more women to the industry and supporting women in management positions. Through networking, education and mentoring in focus, we believe we can enhance members’ competence and empower career success.

It is said that to be a woman in a male dominated industry has never been easy and getting to the top is even harder still.  This is why women in the maritime world need a voice. WISTA fills that need. WISTA today is in more than 40 countries with over 3,000 individual members.

In 2015, the need to advance women’s role in maritime activities became a subject of unprecedented awareness and interest, the International Transport Workers’ Federation had estimated that only 2% of the world’s maritime workforce is made up of women.

It is time to change this statistic by enhancing opportunities for women to be educated and gain experience in maritime activities. Equally important is changing the culture in the maritime sector to reduce the prejudices women encounter on a daily basis. Fortunately, there is evidence that efforts to do so are yielding results, even though building experience among women in the sector is no easy task.

A looming problem will be how the role and contribution of women in maritime development is recognized and framed. If women are to be fully included in the maritime industry, discussions cannot be limited to participation in one or two areas alone such as environmental work, or entrepreneurship such as ship ownership. Creating a community of experienced women in maritime occupations needs to take place at several levels and in various sectors of the industry.

The idea behind WISTA is to promote women in the industry because the industry is male dominated  and for the women voices to be heard, so we need to find a way of coming together, empower one another and encourage each other not to relent because some women get discouraged and that will make them want to quit the profession.

Some of the activities that WISTA International and WISTA national chapters have engaged in to achieve this objective include:

  1. WISTA International and Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on June 7, 2017 to increase the professional competence and enhance educational opportunities for women in the maritime industry. Inthe Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in London, the two organisations will offer five scholarships annually over the next 10 years to individuals nominated by WISTA International. The scholarship will cover the Foundation Diploma programme at The Institute.
  1. WISTA International issued a statement on discrimination of women at the workplace recently. In the Statement, they stated that they were proud to work with organizations such as ISWAN, International Chamber of Shipping, International Transport Workers Federation, and the European Union, the African Union, among others, to help create guidelines, programs, and initiatives to increase awareness and reduce the instances of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  They encouraged the shipping companies to have procedures in place for employees to report harassment without fear of reprisal.
  1. WISTA International has also set up a Diversity Committee to address gender related issues and they have been mandated with three items:

i)                    Creating recommendations and guidelines for increasing the capacity of women in the maritime industry by promoting diversity, inclusion, and open-mindedness.

ii)                   Second, to write a pledge challenging the maritime community to advance diversity and inclusion in the industry, which includes specific actions that organizations can take to enhance diversity, and finally, to recommend a forward strategy for WISTA International with practical solutions for increasing diversity and inclusion as next steps.

iii)                 The Committee findings and recommendations will be announced publicly and posted on the WISTA International website. Additionally, the Committee will develop a robust list of resources, including training, online workshops, kits and materials for the general public to use related to diversity and sexual harassment/assault in the workplace.


  1. WISTA Nigeria organizes lectures, invite the public and annual business luncheons and we make it public for women in the industry to come and attend to hear what we want to say. We also create opportunities for training also for young ones in the industry that have no voice or nobody can support them; we train some cadets and assist them especially in MAN Oron where we produced the best  female cadet officer and we look for IT placement for young girls.
  1. WISTA Nigeria also sponsored two ladies to Regional Academy Maritime, Ghana. They did some courses at the academy and both got employment into NIMASA. There are students from Shipping Institute of Nigeria who have been coming to listen to our lectures and what the organisation is all about. They are also aspiring to be like us. We are open to the all women who want to develop career in the maritime industry. Some women come to us for sponsorship to further their studies abroad; we try to encourage the young ones to get their acts right in the industry.
  1. Many of the women in WISTA Nigeria head companies, and are ship owners like Mrs. Vicky Haastrup, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi to mention a few. The lives of the women in the Riverine area have been touched by our group; we empowered women in the Epe area that are into fishing. Engine boat and fishing net were bought for them by WISTA Nigeria and they are doing very well. They have also graced us with their presence at WISTA Nigeria functions, giving testimonies of what they can do for themselves through WISTA’s assistance. In addition, the women in fishing at Oron community have been empowered by WISTA Nigeria through getting a cold room to keep the left over fishes that were not sold the same day. Our members also counsel them on efficient and sustainable methods of how to run their fishing business and other general matters of life.

WISTA is basically for women in the management position in the industry but in WISTA Nigeria, we do not want it limited that is why we involve all women in shipping and trading including women in logistics, transportation and fisheries. We try in our little way to contribute to the Federal Government’s policies objective with respect to the blue economy. We will continue to partner with major players in the maritime industry to improve their value chain by having more female involvement in the industry.

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