And, the fourth strategy is to facilitate her role as a leader in the maritime industry.
If we take care of all these four stages with a definite strategy, I see no reason why participation of women in this industry cannot be increased. Again, this cannot be done only by policy; this needs detailed deliberations within and outside the industry.
There are enough options for everyone in the larger maritime community…lawyers, financiers, classification societies, government training institutes, recruiters and ship managers. All these require men and women who are educated and experienced. If there is a line of communication between all these segments of the maritime sector, then a proper career path can be designed for women. Once we design a proper career path for women, more and more women will come forward, and they can be retained, retrained and their skills utilised by the maritime community.
Promoting women seafarers:
I’m afraid we have not done enough but some small steps have been taken to encourage women. Some scholarships have been launched by the Maritime Training Trust. It’s a small amount and doesn’t take care of all their requirements, but it is a step shown by the Maritime Training Trust. Now, other trusts, unions and large companies need to follow suit and make sure that some kind of encouragement is given to women to allow them to join in larger numbers.
In terms of ship-board training, we don’t have a comprehensive strategy to retain them once they have entered this field. We have been talking to a lot of employers and basically prodding them to take more and more women, and give more and more berths to women. There is still some reluctance but some have come forward. In the last three years, data suggest that almost everyone has at least got the first ship-board berth for women.
Guidelines to be implemented:
We intend to make the guideline compulsory for all Indian vessels. We will also request the recruitment and placement service (RPS) providers to communicate this guideline to other shipowners who have been employing Indians.
In terms of refocus, there is a complete gap. You need to have a strategy for accommodating women when they tend to take rest for a few years; we need to find shore-based employment for them during this period when we cannot ask them to go on-board. It may be possible for them to work in a related field on shore during this period, and if they remain connected to the shipping industry, then the gap that is felt today will not be there.