Ms Sunieeti Bala, Founder, IWSF(second
from left) poses for a photo with Dr V Malini Shankar, DG Shipping, following
the launch of International Women Seafarers Federationís (IWSF) promotion
pamphlet at Mumbai, recently.
Redeeming the pledge on increasing women tribe numbers
from measly 2 per cent in the global sailing industry, International Women
Seafarers Foundation (IWSF) has made their high voltage debut on Nov 2017 at
Mumbai marking the beginning of a new dawn for women sailors to break the glass
ceiling in the crewing industry. In a freewheeling chat with Sagar
Sandesh, Ms Suineeti Bala, Founder, IWSF expresses shock
and awe that out of 1.25 mn seafarers, womenfolk constitute a meager 2 %
warranting war footing institutional intervention to set right the gender
inequity in the industry. An Extra First Class, Ex-Marine/Class Surveyor
& Auditor, DMET (MERI Kolkata) alumni, she opens up about vision, mission
and goals of IWSF aimed towards uplifting female cadetsí numbers in global
sailing industry. Excerpts
Could you identify some of the broad-based
major goals to be accomplished by IWSF in the short and long-term?
Our short term goals are to assist women
seafarer in getting suitable job opportunity by facilitating platform to
companies and seafarers to interact, satisfy each other's
requirements. Secondly, to provide appropriate
Gender sensitization training on a sustained and evolving basis. Thirdly, to
guide and mentor young women seafarers embracing the shipping career
detailing pros and cons of the journey in maritime sector. As part of
long term goals we have envisaged a broad spectrum of action plan including
assisting of companies to bridge policy gaps for women seafarers on board and
create awareness; to assist Government and Institutions in promoting education
and policies related to women; to promote and assist government in their
mission and focus on empowerment of women; increasing visibility and presence
of Women Seafarers in the Maritime sector.
Do you have a well-defined blueprint to enhance Indian
womenfolk's participation in seafaring workforce?
We are preparing this blueprint and to mention
some of the themes, I would highlight the salient focus areas of the blueprint
viz., to connect with shipping companies, create a pool and understand
challenges in hiring women seafarers; to arrange workshops to spread
awareness about women in this profession and their active participation;
to arrange workshops/seminars on Gender sensitization; to liaise with
National and International bodies for women seafarer welfare and policy
influencing interactions; to extend -support
and Guide sailing women, help them understand and face challenges on board
ships and learn to take right steps at right time; to guide and mentor young
women seafarers embracing the shipping career during their adventurous journey
in the maritime sector.
Do you really believe maritime industry fulfills the
obligation of equal opportunity employer in employing right proportion of women
So far there are limited number of ship owning
and management companies who consider women as suitable workforce for their
ships, where majority of such companies do not hire women as their sea going
employees. This majorly depend upon the nationality and socio-cultural
environment, e.g most companies hailing from Europe regions are generally
ok in taking women on board unlike others.
How do you address work-life balance predicaments of
Till the time women is sailing onboard, they are
not affected by day-to-day worklife balance as she is on duty for her whole
contract, and once at home on vacation she is available 24X7 for her near
and dear ones, just like any male colleague. However once women comes ashore to
work then challenges are very similar to any other shore based employment and
naturally it demands a lot from working women.
One of the big challenge faced by women
seafarers is that when they are at peak of their career (top four ranks),
their biological clock to achieve maternity is giving an alarm. Thus
many under family pressures decide to quit sea life and come ashore. On
shore there are many job opportunity for them. Recently there has
been initiative form Director general of shipping where recruitment rules
are changed ,though changes are gender neutral however now more women can look
forward to join esteemed Maritime government positions.
What's your take on workplace apprehensions of
passed-out female cadets joining the industry?
Once a girl passes out with flying colors from
MTI, she faces first apprehension while attending campus interviews where
limited number of companies approach/offer them jobs, if at all selected then
apprehension about how cooperative, understanding and acceptable will be her
future colleagues. In most of the cases a women seafarer have to
prove herself at every ship she joins that yes she is as competent,
professional and may be more dedicated than her male counterparts
in-spite of her experience seniority on rank.
Is male chauvinism a myth or reality in crewing
Oh yes very much, this profession is male
dominated since ages and it is only recently, male seafarers have
started seeing women on board as their co-workers .Most of the time male
counterparts show their male chauvinism especially those who comes
from conservative family backgrounds.