The Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Major General Richard Addo Gyane, says women’s contributions to the maritime sector brings diversity, new perspectives, and innovative solutions to the industry’s challenges.
He, therefore, said it was important that women’s participation in the maritime sector, as well as their contribution to a sustainable blue economy, be recognised.
The Commandant made the remarks at the opening of a two-day symposium on harnessing women’s contribution to the blue economy in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in Cotonou, Benin.
The symposium, organised by the KAIPTC, formed part of policy engagements toward contributing to discourses aimed at enhancing women’s roles, participation and representation in decision-making in the maritime economy.
The KAIPTC, with the financial support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is implementing a five-year project on ‘Integrated Responses to Threats to Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Domain in West and Central Africa (2022-2026)’.
The five-year project leverages on the experiences of a previous three-year project on ‘Enhancing Regional Research, Capacity-Building and Convening of Stakeholders toward a Safer Maritime Domain in the Gulf of Guinea (2019-2021).
The project seeks to provide a platform for maritime stakeholders in the GoG, including operational level actors in maritime security institutions, the private sector and civil society actors, to better understand the maritime security landscape, deepen their collaboration and coordination, and pool individual and collective resources in efforts at strengthening maritime security in the GoG.
The Commandant stated that recognising and supporting women’s involvement in the maritime workforce was not only essential for promoting gender equality, but also for achieving an inclusive and sustainable maritime economy.
He indicated that the sector offered a range of opportunities for job creation, improved livelihoods and sustainable economic growth and development to populations across the region, including women who – unfortunately – were often poorly represented across all the maritime sectors.
“From national navies through to ports and maritime administration agencies and the fishing industry, women face multiple challenges in terms of roles, representation and participation in decision-making,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Gyane said while regional maritime frameworks generally remained gender neutral, emerging maritime security threats – including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, maritime piracy, human trafficking, maritime pollution, among others – negatively affect women and their livelihoods.
He emphasised that addressing maritime security challenges required a broad and inclusive approach, adding that a diverse gendered perspective in the maritime space would provide a relative advantage to ensuring a safer and secure maritime.
He, therefore, said: “This project, therefor,e falls within our vision and mission to promote effective implementation of relevant regional and international maritime protocols through research, policy dialogues and capacity development to control maritime crimes, including piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Commodore Fernand Ahoyo, Maritime Prefect of Benin, said: “In the Gulf of Guinea, women play a vital role in the preservation of our marine resources, the economic development and the promotion of maritime security”.
He said women had demonstrated their ability to excel in areas traditionally dominated by men, whether in maritime transport, fishing, ocean research or marine resource management.
Commodore Ahoyo said by fostering greater inclusion and creating equal opportunities for women in the blue economy, stakeholders were strengthening the sustainability of the oceans, promoting economic growth, and contributing to the social and human development of communities.
The two-day symposium witnessed various presentations from experts which touched on harnessing the potential of women to the blue economy, mainstreaming gender and gaps, and opportunities for women in the blue economy.
There were also country presentations on women’s experiences in the blue economy. The symposium brought together participants from ten countries in the Gulf of Guinea.