Institute for Security Studies (ISS) - Women in Africa’s Maritime Space

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by: Denys Reva and Liezelle Kumalo

The maritime environment is male-dominated and women’s inclusion into the maritime sector remains a challenge. There are a number of cultural, structural and workplace barriers that render the maritime environment unattractive to many women. Comprehensive changes need to take place, not only within the maritime sector but also within societies, to create conditions conducive for women’s inclusion and meaningful participation. This report presents recommendations for South Africa that could apply to other African countries.

Key findings

- Sea blindness affects the way careers in the maritime space are perceived by the public, including women. Blue Economy shines a spotlight on the riches contained within the maritime space, addressing the issue of sea blindness, and offering an opportunity to increase women’s participation in maritime sectors of the economy.

- Historically, women were prevented from meaningfully participating in the maritime space, which led to the emergence of cultural and gender biases. Responding to these challenges would require comprehensive cooperation between governments and businesses.

- Valid and precise gender-disaggregated data is at the core of any scientific inquiry. The lack of gender-specific data from maritime sectors prevents a meaningful investigation of the current realities of women in the maritime space.

- The Women, Peace and Security agenda may offer a valuable contribution to the discussion on women’s inclusion in the maritime sector, given the relative success of its implementation in the peace and security sector.

- South Africa has made considerable advancements in promoting women’s inclusion and participation in the maritime space. However, some challenges and barriers remain and need to be addressed.

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