Women are leaders, entrepreneurs, caregivers and receivers of care. Nowhere is this truer than in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region, where the health of the ocean has a direct impact on the way women live and work in the region, and their efforts and leadership in sustainability of the ocean is vital. While leadership in science has been dominated by men in the past, gender diversity in ocean-related research is 10% higher than research overall, according to the Global Ocean Science Report by IOC-UNESCO. This indicates that more and more women are getting involved in influential positions in ocean governance.
From Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to incoming WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division- UNEP, and more, women are on the forefront of ocean conservation and governance. Associations like the Network for Women in Marine Science, launched to address the gender equality issues facing women marine scientists in the Western Indian Ocean region, have been monumental for women in marine occupations in the WIO region by providing a platform for mentorship, to share experiences and achievements while increasing visibility in and out of the region.
Women are often acknowledged as major actors in sustainable development, owing to their inclusiveness and collaborative roles. The Nairobi Convention supports activities that seek to empower women in the implementation of measures to protect, conserve and manage marine resources through projects such as SAPPHIRE, and the Nairobi Convention-SWIOFC partnership project that aims to strengthen collaboration between fisheries and environmental management and increase the participation of women in fishing communities in the management of natural resources in the WIO.
Considering these developments, an advanced leadership workshop focused on women was very timely. Between September – December 2021, the SAPPHIRE project supported the facilitation of a women’s leadership workshop with WIOMSA. This was the third in a series of leadership workshops and built up on lessons learned during the previous iterations in 2019 and 2020. The participant-focused workshop sought to empower leaders and promote networking to influence marine policy formulation, decision making and implementation.
The workshop’s intent was to enhance women’s existing leadership capacity to help them reach a higher level of relevance and impact. Participants from nine organizations were equipped with skills for improved advocacy on the use of integrated approaches for the management of the coastal and marine resources in the region.
Attending the workshop for a second time, Mrs. Marie-May Muzungaile, Director General, Biodiversity Conservation and Management Division in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change -Seychelles, noted that she went through a self-discovery journey.
Another participant, Ms. Lilian Omolo of WIOMSA, noted that she highly valued the lessons imparted by the course on personal mastery. In her words, she said that:
The workshop contributed to SAPPHIRE’s Outcome 5.1, which seeks to strengthen capacity for improved ocean governance through training and support. The SAPPHIRE project will continue to support and develop capacity regionally, to reinforce women’s roles and participation in ocean governance.
For more information on the SAPPIRE project, visit this link.