The maritime industry is ripe with opportunity for women. According to the International Labour Organization, women account for only 2% of the total workforce in the industry, and this realisation has led to unprecedented awareness about work opportunities for women in this area.
Former African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called for greater participation of women in Africa’s maritime industries, especially in the development of the continent’s Blue Economy, as this could further develop said industries and result in economic development.
Elizabeth MaramiElizabeth Marami, 27, has made history by becoming Kenya’s first female marine pilot. Born and bred in the coastal city of Mombasa, Elizabeth initially studied law at the University of Nairobi, but later changed course, going on to pursue navigation in Alexandria, Egypt for five years.
Her job as a marine pilot entails assisting vessels coming into Kenya’s territorial waters, because according to law, vessels entering a country’s territorial waters may not progress to the harbour without official escort.
According to the young pilot, entering the industry was no easy task: “Two years ago, I wanted to be the first female captain in the country,” Elizabeth says in her video trailer for Against the Tide. “But the number of times I got turned down made me convince myself that I was okay with an office job.” However, Elizabeth was inspired to continue with her maritime pursuits when she came across an article about Kate McCue, America’s first female captain of a megaton cruise ship.
Working in a male-dominated industry has had its challenges for Elizabeth, including earning the respect of senior management as a female professional. She has learned to be assertive at all times, not taking it personally when colleagues and seniors aren’t happy with her because she’s a woman. Her biggest concern, she shares, is the gender imbalance in staffing and training, which keeps women out of the industry; she is often the only female on board ship for sometimes 18 months at a time, and - as in most professional settings - mutual respect and being a team player keep her in good standing.
If she wasn’t a marine pilot, Elizabeth believes she would have pursued a career in fashion and writing. In fact, she has her own fashion blog on which she shares pictures and fashion tips, as well as personal essays.
Hoping more girls and women will be encouraged to enter the maritime industry, Elizabeth started Against the Tide, an initiative that aims to provide support and equal opportunity to women in this sector. A video detailing the progress of this initiative, and Elizabeth’s story, can be viewed on YouTube.