Women At Sea

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When Mrs Indira Gandhi and Mrs Margarette Thatcher took up the reigns of two great nations, the world raised its eyebrows. A huge section of those eyebrow raisers comprised of women themselves. Women have a very special and highly respectable status in all the religious philosophies. In effect, from time immemorial, they were pushed back for child care and household chores. The supremacy of the brawns collapsed on the day gun powder was invented. One after the other, scientific and technological innovations gave sufficient edge to the ‘brain power’. Medical science has established that the IQ level of women is stronger comparing to that of men. From the shadows of ‘the successful men’, these women are emerging to the forefront in great numbers.

From corporate governance to space travel, women have taken a quantum stride in all walks of life. In the defence forces, though initially they were into medical, logistics, communication and education fields, lately they have taken up combat roles as well. The girls have stopped gazing passing merchant ships from the beach. Today, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) study reveals that women represent 1.2% of the world’s 1.25 million seafarers. The International Transport Federation (ITF) claims that more than 23,000 women seafarers are members of their affiliated unions.

The tall ships and steam ships on which a lot of muscle power was required to operate are things of the past. Today’s ships are technologically very advanced and the oceans are safe to operate. The women are not joining the seafaring trade just for leisure or a decent salary. The adventurous instincts of women to face challenges at sea are a growing phenomenon and the shipping industry has to adjust and adapt. Few of these aspirants are poised to take over command at sea. It has been reported that in the male dominated sea, they are put to confront severe discrimination. The discrimination begins at the Maritime Education & Training Institutes where the faculty expresses doubts on women’s capability to withstand the vagaries at sea. Thereby, women are made to exert more than their male colleagues in field tasks. They are always subjected to endurance test and are required to prove their physical ability.

The ILO study has brought out that it is a matter of acceptability. Over a period of time women seafarers are able to integrate themselves into crews and become accepted and appreciated by their colleagues. Equal opportunity and promotion policy varies among companies and some companies are reluctant to promote them. Like in any other corporate entity, the female related harassment, inappropriate social relationships etc exist onboard a merchant vessel also. General health conditions and the life sustaining physical cycles of women ie menstruation, contraception, conception etc are to be adequately addressed onboard. Established companies have put in place adequate conduct rules to mitigate any sexual harassment or discrimination. Besides they have inducted a behavioral training to ensure a matured social living onboard.

Using the study resources, the ILO has published a book titled ‘Women Seafarers – Global Employment Policies and Practices’. This landmark book is the first to focus on contemporary women seafarers at a global level. It addresses a host of issues surrounding the working conditions and welfare of women, from both developed and developing countries, employed aboard the world’s merchant and passenger ships. The book could be ordered direct from the ILO Office by clicking on the link (Read More) given below. Visitors can also read the contents and one chapter of this book.

A person must choose his career that suits his taste, aptitude, physical ability, mental ability etc. If the career selected is not satisfying, it could turn out to be a disaster. The sea career aspiring ladies are exhorted to speak to themselves and understand their aptitude. Very few get an opportunity to pursue a career at sea and therefore, the general public has limited knowledge about it. The literature available in the market on the subject may not project the right picture on the merchant navy. It will be in their interest to speak to a senior person who has served in the merchant navy and learn more about this career. If your aptitude matches with the actual scenario – jobships.com wishes you a happy sailing.

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