As part of the 6th WISTA Africa Region Conference, held in Accra, a panel discussion was arranged among distinguished women in the maritime and shipping sector who shared their experience working in the field.
Esther Gyebi Donkor, General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of GPHA recounted her experience at serving as a Terminal Manager at the Golden Jubilee Terminal as most challenging.
She said, although she had been trained adequately for the job, there was a glaring gender imbalance when she assumed her managerial role which raised eyebrows from the male dominated department in the port, who were skeptical about her competence.
“What I realized when I went to operations was the normal male dominance issues that we are talking about. That area is so close and so male dominated, I mean the operational area. The males always wonder if you can do it,” she narrated.
Yet, with the support of fellow WISTA peers, and self-determination to prove herself, she rose above and performed her duties diligently, provoking her promotion to her current office.
“I actually always refer to WISTA sisters. Some of them encourage me and said that; ‘Esther, you need to let them understand that women can do it so I went in there and I did my best. I had some feedbacks that told me that I was doing well,” she added.
Captain Catherine Haizel, a female captain also bemoaned challenges at sea, where she encountered harsh conditions, that were intended to intimidate women, but she soared through the challenges.
She encouraged women, who have the passion to work at sea, to channel self-motivation in order to make it through the challenges.
“The sea job is very challenging, particularly going to sea, and you can be in the Maritime industry without necessarily going to sea. But if you choose to go to sea, then you should have some nerves of steel because it is not easy. The fact is you will be competing with men at sea,” she said.
Ramat Jalloh who had contributed to the training of many women at the International Maritime Law Institute praised amendments made by the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization that have improved working conditions for women seafarers, and advocated for more improvement in future.
“For most classes that I have lectured, we have more women in class than we have men so I will say that in my five to six years then, I would have contributed to the training of over 150 to 200 women from all over the world,” she indicated.