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Gender biases on women still persist in maritime profession


On International Women’s Day, the AMOSUP-organised ‘gender sensitivity training’ hears instances of inequality and oppression female seafarers suffered at work

Kakayahan, hindi kasarian!” (Capability, and not gender, matters!), That was the battle cry during the Gender Sensitivity Training (GST) attended by over 80 seafarers at the AMOSUP Convention Hall on 10 March 2023 as part of AMOSUP’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the maritime industry.

AMOSUP, through its committee on women and young seafarers and advocacy group, organized the GST in celebration of the International Women’s Month. The union invited seasoned Gender & Development, Gender in Emergencies and Feminist Movement-Building Consultant Aimee Santos-Lyons to facilitate the training.

The GST gathered a diverse set of female, male and LGBTQIA+ cadets and facilitators from the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), as well as active AMOSUP members, both women and men.

In his welcome remarks, AMOSUP President Dr Conrado F Oca said the GST affirms the union’s efforts to advocate gender equality, and to address gender-based violence (GBV) in the workplace. He reiterated that AMOSUP strongly supports diiversity, Equity and Inclusion in the traditionally male-dominated maritime industry. “In 2018, AMOSUP established our Committee on Women and Young Seafarers, which as included in our amended constitution and by-laws in 2020.”

Dr Oca revealed that the union’s membership continues to grow and that more women are joining ships. Out of over 100,000 union members, about 7,000 are women – a jump from 5,000 in 2018. However, the union’s leadership would like to see more young seafarers of all genders to take on the opportunities in our industry. “We know you are equally capable, you just have to be given the space and the right tools you need to maximize your potential,” he said.

The GST facilitator, Ms. Santos-Lyons, laid out three objectives: to build shared understanding and capacities of the participants to problems arising from Gender Oppression and Gender Bias, to discuss the importance of being Gender Sensitive and the need to address areas of Gender Inequality, and to strengthen AMOSUP’s commitment to gender equality.

Throughout the whole day session, participants actively engaged in the conversations about their personal experiences dealing with existing biases, oppression, and inequality in the industry. “I was rejected and denied a promotion multiple times just because I am a woman,” a participant shared.

But Ms Santos-Lyons applauded the group for the respectful and rich discourse despite disagreements on some issues. “It was inspiring to hear brave storytelling of economic marginalization, political subordination, reproductive and body autonomy restrictions and GBV within the industry. Ang sharp ng Gender Analysis nila,” (Their Gender Analysis is so sharp) she said.

One of the seafarers, 2/O Maribel Villar Singian of Thome Group, said she feels more empowered than ever after participating in the GST. She revealed that the session inspired her to continue standing up for her rights, and to keep on pushing forward to reach her goals. Maribel enthusiastically shared that she just recently obtained her Chief Officer license. “Nilaban natin ito, Ma’am! Tuluy-tuloy lang!” (We fought for this, Ma’am! We will keep moving onward!)

Towards the end of the session, AMOSUP Executive Vice President and MAAP President, Vice Admiral Eduardo Ma. R. Santos (AFP Ret.), expressed his full support to the union’s efforts in championing inclusion and equality in maritime. VAdm. Santos recalled the outstanding feats of women seafarers, stating that the very first Filipina Master Mariner and the first Filipina Chief Engineer were both MAAP alumnae. The former Navy flag officer-in-command concluded his message with a powerful quote: , “After all, there is no ‘hero’ without ‘her’.” SF