Despite the good attempt of the government to strengthen its mandate of putting gender-balanced opportunities in the maritime workforce, the Women in Maritime Philippines (WIMAPhil) admits that there would be a long way to go to put more women onboard.
Just recently, the maritime industry celebrated the National Maritime Week, adopting the theme“Empowering Women in the Maritime Sector,” set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) earlier this year.
According to this year’s NMW host, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) targets to emphasize the government’s movement to provide equal opportunities to both men and women in the maritime industry.
WIMAPhil, established in 2007 is an organization that leads the movement in empowering women in the maritime community. In the Philippines, its President Dr. Merle Jimenez San Pedro says that she is still ‘thankful’ for government’s efforts in trying to align its theme to WIMAPhil’s advocacy. However, when asked if the weeklong celebration is successful in truly recognizing women’s contribution in the maritime sector, this is what she answered:
“The fact that they adopted the theme – sabi nga nila (as they say) we should be happy with these little things. It’s something that we are thankful for. But as to how it is able to accomplish its goals – I cannot answer that. I don’t want to make conclusions yet because I wasn’t there except that in some regions for example, in Region 5, we made sure that the activities are really aligned to the theme. But generally, it’s always the traditional way, you put up a theme but the activities are already pre-packaged.”
Nonetheless, theWIMAPhil president assures that the organization is, and has always been, doing its part on how to create more opportunities for women in the industry in spite of the ‘challenges’ it comes with, including a lack of support from the maritime sector itself in allowing women to participate in seafaring.
“We felt that it was also a difficult task. Because even in the Philippines, even though we have more women who are beginning to be more interested in the seafaring industry, there’s still a lot of challenges that we face in terms of the support to get women onboard.”
Dr. San Pedro also said that the problem is still rooted in discrimination against women in a male-dominated industry. Despite the organization’s strong pro-women movement, the bottomline is that, they cannot force the shipowners to hire more women in the ship. There is an estimate of 1.2 million seafarers around the world. However, women comprise only two percent of this, with only one percent in the Philippines.
That is why WIMAPhil revised its one of banner programs that was initially intended to promote women in seafaring. Dr. San Pedro boasts its Ship-to-Shore program that aims to bring more women in the maritime workforce and in other areas that they can be more accepted and given more opportunities.
“We must not just limit ourselves to seafaring. Instead we want to expand the opportunities for women. We now have naval architects and female welders and they are doing very well kahit babae sila (even if they are women). We have women who are doing well in the academe or training centers, also in fisheries – so marami tayong pwedeng pasukin na (there’s a lot that we can pursue that are) maritime-related careers.”
Other banner programs of WIMAPhil also include: WIMA on Watch (WOW) program that is focused in reassuring the safety and security in domestic vessels, and WIMA for Marine Life which advocates a healthy marine life for every organism in the ocean.
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