Increasing the visibility and breaking barriers for Women in Maritime is a key commitment of EUCAP Somalia, which is why we were happy to celebrate the first time the Day for Women in Maritime. We were excited to attend the Symposium that the International Maritime Organisation hosted on 18 May 2022.
For the special inauguration of this 1st Day of Women in Maritime, we talked to our colleague Naima about her journey into the Maritime Sector. She has been working for EUCAP Somalia since 2021 and she has a key role in our work together with our Somali counterparts.
What inspired you to work in the Maritime Sector?
When I graduated Secondary School, I was searching what to focus on in my future. I was thinking of three things: What does my country, Somalia, need? What does the world need? What do I need for my future?
I was thinking about studying Geology, Maritime or Agriculture. I realized that I have been interested in Maritime so I started to study Maritime Science. I remember my family saying you can either learn technology or medicine because my family were thinking what would be the best for me. I told them I don’t want to go where everyone goes but instead where I want to go. I realized this was the right choice when I graduated and had worked in many different places such as Ministry of Fisheries, Directorate of Environment and Climate Change in Somalia. I applied to EUCAP Somalia and was chosen for this job. The first thing that inspired me was myself. I want every Somali girl to know that she can study whatever she wants. In Somalia, girls are not much involved in Maritime so this is something we need to change. I want to inspire every Somali girl to study what she wants.
Why is Maritime important for Somalia?
Somalia has the longest Coast in Africa. We have to profit from this rich resource. We have to learn how to benefit from this resource in a sustainable way. We are using the Sea in a wrong way. We don’t use as much as we need to, so we should make sure to do this in an environmentally good way. We need to realize that we have this very important rich resource that many other countries do not have. We should utilize it in a good way.
What are some challenges you have experienced in this sector?
There are challenges in the Somali society that they do not know much about Maritime. When you say that you are studying Marine Science they think that I am going fishing. Although fishing is not something bad but this is the only thing that my people know about Marine science. During the practical training when I went to the beach to learn how to swim, they asked why I am learning to swim because I am a girl. They are thinking that I am doing something that is not good. I did not care about it because I knew why I am doing this and what my goal is.
Has the opinion of people around you changed now that you have graduated?
Absolutely! When I graduated I got two job opportunities. I did my internship at the Ministry of Fisheries. I then got two job options to work with the Ministry of Fisheries and the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change. Then my family said that I did a good choice for getting these two offers and that I should chose what is best for me. They encouraged me and congratulated me. I remember my sister saying that who told you to study this Marine Science as you chose your future career very well. Marine Science study was new in my country after the civil war when I started but know they understand what Marine Science is. When I now tell people what I studied, they are telling me that I am unique and I studied what is important for the country. We were 50 students in our class but only 25 students graduated as many were discouraged by what other people said about the topic. We were only 2 woman that graduated.
What needs to be done to get more Women in to the Maritime Sector?
We need to improve education within the sector. We only have three universities in Somalia which provide faculty of Marine Science. Education is the key. It is also super important to raise awareness that girls can study Marine Science and work in this sector. There are some women working in Fisheries but they do this unofficially without the educational background. They are doing fishing nets and other important functions. We need to work with them to increase their skills and include them in our sector. When we talk about education awareness, we need to focus on the parents. My parents respected my choices but there are many parents, who think that medicine and other studies are better than Marine Science. This needs to be changed.
Can you share any positive developments you have seen in regards to Women in Maritime Sector?
I can see that Somalia is not where it was 5 years ago. You can see that people are understanding now what I am doing and why Marine Science is so important. I think somehow we need more development but I can see that Women in Maritime has developed a lot in the last five to ten years.
If you can give one message to Somali girls and Women thinking about joining the Maritime Sector, what would that be?
I would say that they should profit from the opportunities. They have all the qualities needed to succeed in Maritime. Do it if you are interested in this. Profit from what Maritime has to offer.