Women have historically been under-represented in ocean governance and policy formulation, despite the crucial role they play in marine and coastal activities. With oceans covering approximately 70% of the world and women comprising half of the global population, it is essential that women play an active and influential role in ocean governance. Women have traditionally been more involved in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, which contribute significantly to reducing poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2 respectively) reduction, towards a more sustainable world.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese, an expert on maritime law and policy, actively co-shaped the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In the Western Indian Ocean region, women like Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Dr. Jacqueline Uku, and Ms. Marie-May Jeremie (Muzungaile) have contributed immensely to improved ocean governance. However, there is still a significant need to involve more women in this quest.
Recognizing this need, Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project has been offering yearly training since 2019 focused on providing a conducive environment for women leaders to empower themselves in the Western Indian Ocean. The training aims to enhance the participation and contribution of women in policy, legislation, strategy, and programme formulation and execution for the sustainable management of resources and improved ocean governance in the region. Participants have been women in various capacities and leadership roles from the WIO region, in the coastal and marine fields.
The trainings have been a motivating and inspiring platform for participants, offering them chances to reflect and share their successes, failures, and how to seize opportunities. Dr. Jacqueline Uku, the immediate former President of WIOMSA attended the last chapter of the leadership workshop and in her words,
“…women leaders in coastal and marine fields must equip themselves with the necessary tools and knowledge to influence positive impact. The leadership training for women in the Western Indian Ocean region has not only provided us with invaluable skills but has allowed us to take on challenges and drive change by enhancing the participation of women in public decisions about our oceans.”
The under-representation of women in coastal and marine issues and activities leads to flawed social-ecological linkages within marine ecosystems. International Women’s Day is marked on March 8 and it celebrates and acknowledges the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbracingEquity. SAPPHIRE’s activities on harmonizing and reforming policies and institutions continue to support country efforts to expand the role of women in ocean governance, the blue economy, and beyond.
This initiative is funded by the Global Environment Facility through the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonization and Institutional Reforms (SAPPHIRE) Project, executed by the Nairobi Convention. The project promotes policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean.
- ACP MEAs III Gender Operational Note
- DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality
- International Women’s Day Webinar Hosted by the Network For Women in Marine Science (WiMS)
- UNEP Chief Scientist on why we need more women and girls in science
- Report: Gender Mainstreaming in Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management: Principles, Case Studies and Lessons Learned
- Equipping Women for Success: How UNEP’s Gender Mainstreaming initiatives are bridging the gender divide