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Women in the Maritime Domain: Breaking the barriers

Somalia, 24 April - Somalia boasts as a country with one of Africa's longest coastlines, stretching 3333 kilometres and is endowed with a wealth of marine resources. The country, however, has not taken full advantage of the economic potential presented by these resources owing to the weak governance structures, insufficient infrastructure and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by foreign countries. IUU vessels in Somalia have led to overfishing that has, in turn, decreased the domestic catch forcing the local fishermen to resort to other kinds of maritime crimes such as piracy.

Regional Legislative Assessment on Trafficking in Persons in Eastern Africa 2021To address the issue of the upsurge in IUU in Somalia waters, in October 2021, UNODC, through its Global Maritime Crime Programme (UNODC GMCP), conducted a joint two-week training for 43 fisheries inspectors, prosecutors, and the Mogadishu maritime police unit. The training was funded by the Government of Denmark to enhance the coordination and legal responses to IUU fishing and related crimes

Various studies show that the fisheries sector is male-dominated globally and in Somalia in particular. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, women are often the most disadvantaged in the fishing industry, having taken up precarious and low-paying professions. It is difficult for women to feel confident in applying for high-level positions in a male-dominated industry since they may believe the roles are better suited to men. Ms Fardus, a female trainee in the inspector's course, estimates that around 25-30 per cent of women employed in the fishing sector work in cleaning departments, secretarial roles, and security posts.

To address the issue of gender equity, UNODC GMCP has pursued an approach of integrating women into its mainstream maritime activities through encouraging women’s access to maritime training programmes and increase the number of women at senior management levels within the maritime sector. The joint two-week training conducted in October 2021 counted the participation of three women. The training paid off. Upon its completion, female officers gained the courage to seek careers regarded more suitable for their male counterparts. Ms Fardus a trainee in the inspector's course said, “I had the mindset that IUU line of work would have been difficult for females to participate in, but now I feel confident enough with all the knowledge I acquired from this training to be on the front line and fight against those who partake in illegal fishing. I know there are loads of illegal fishing activities happening, and I am ready to be part of the team protecting Somalia coastline.” She has stated that she had shown interest in furthering her education and had discussed this with the ministry of fisheries, who then agreed to send her to Uganda to complete a 2-year university degree specializing in human resources management, which relates to fisheries and how to manage the employers and the people who work in the fishing sector. She has encouraged more female colleagues to follow in her footsteps and start by furthering their education which will help them secure higher-paying jobs within the ministry.

Ms. Ikran, a female trainee in the inspector's course, talked about the importance of the opportunity given to her. She said that the two-week training greatly improved her knowledge. "I am already part of the inspector's team in the fisheries ministry in Somalia, and I had several trainings regarding inspection and control, and so I decided to participate in this training just to advance my knowledge in inspection and control of fishing and the training I have received so far had vastly improved my knowledge which I can now share with my colleagues in Somalia.”, she averred. She has so far attended three trainings: 2017 fishing management course in Mauritius, 2018 vessel monitoring system training in Seychelles and 2021 joint fisheries training in Seychelles.

In keeping with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, significant effort has been made to boost female representation and alleviate the discrimination faced by females seeking to join male-dominated industries (SDG5). Ms. Deqa, who was a member of the prosecutors’ team, stated, "I recognized that few females were working in the prosecutor's office and that there were numerous cases involving sexual assaults against women, all of which were being handled by the few females working in the office, such as gathering all the information necessary to ensure the victims' justice." She aspires to erase social misconceptions about women's leadership qualities and will continue to advocate for women's representation in male-dominated fields. This, she noted, may be achieved by earning all essential credentials prior to applying for high-paying positions and notifying managers about any training or courses available to aid in career advancement within the ministry. She also encouraged her female co-workers and friends to overcome their fears and apply for positions they believe they are qualified for regardless of whether the position is male-dominated or not since they possess all the essential skills.

More information

Global Maritime Crime Programme