​Launch of The Association Of Women In Maritime Of West And Central Africa ​(WIMOWCA)

Launch of The Association Of Women In Maritime Of West And Central Africa (WIMOWCA)
Friday, 23 July 2021
Keynote by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It is a pleasure to join you for the launch of the Association of Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa as one of the IMO-supported regional women in maritime associations, or WIMAs.

It is a welcome addition to the global network of WIMAs. This special event provides a unique opportunity to discuss and celebrate two topics: women in the maritime community, and Africa as a maritime continent.

I must express my appreciation to all those that have worked tirelessly to support the establishment and launch of WIMOWCA and this event including the President and other executives.

As you know, IMO is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for maritime safety, security, protection of the marine environment and the efficiency of shipping.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO's vision and strategy is clearly aligned with global efforts to improve the lives of people everywhere and to reduce the negative impact of human development on our planet.

We are committed to helping our Member States achieve the aims of the 2030 UN Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, in particular SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

IMO has been running a highly successful campaign to promote women in the maritime community for more than 30 years.

With IMO's help, seven regional Women in Maritime Associations have already been established, covering more than 150 countries and dependent territories – and now we have eight WIMAs.

You will be aware that just before the pandemic hit, IMO's World Maritime theme for 2019 was "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community".

This initiative was successful in promoting gender equality and the need for shipping to draw talent from every corner of the globe and every part of the population to secure its own sustainability.

We continue to build on the legacy of the year of empowering women within the Secretariat and with our Women in Maritime Programme.

To support the empowerment of women, IMO provides gender-specific fellowships and scholarships, at our own maritime education establishments – the World Maritime University and the IMO International Maritime Law Institute – and at others, too. In fact, we recently awarded fellowships to nearly fifty women to take maritime courses in Le Havre, France and Galilee, Israel, with priority given to female officials from Africa, SIDS and LDCs.

Another topic that remains at the top of IMO's and my personal priorities is the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea. International shipping is suffering. Piracy and armed robbery continue to damage the economy and trade. This situation has continued for several years, and these illegal acts must be stopped. Now is the time to make real progress. I am grateful to all coastal states in the region and international partners that have made positive strides in the area of interagency cooperation and response.  

IMO continues to support efforts within the framework of the Yaoundé Code of conduct and in partnership with the littoral states. I am encouraged to see that you chose the topic of maritime security situation in the Gulf of Guinea for the panel discussion during the launch event. I am hopeful that your deliberations will yield useful suggestions to support efforts to tackle the menace of piracy in the region.

This is without doubt a time of change in shipping, and transport in general, and whatever form the ships of the future eventually take, they will have to be ever safer and more environment-friendly.

Thanks to digitalization and other new technologies emerging in so many areas – like e-navigation, alternative fuel and renewable energy, robotics, new materials and construction techniques - shipping is entering a new era.

We need a well-trained and diverse workforce to make shipping work.

Indeed, for sustainability and success in the modern world, shipping needs diversity in the workforce and we need women to drive the decision-making processes.

Women in the maritime world today are strong, powerful, and constantly challenging old-fashioned perceptions.

We are on the right path and progress has been made. However much still needs to be done to help the maritime industry progress toward gender equality. Experience tells us that diversity is better; it is better for teamwork, better for leadership - and better for commercial performance.

We know that the women in maritime networks provide great opportunities for networking and mentoring.

Access to these regional maritime associations for women provides members with a platform to discuss a number of issues, not just about gender, but also technical issues.

These associations contribute to bridging the gap and narrowing some of the institutional barriers facing women who enter the maritime industry.

With help from this newly established Association of Women in Maritime of West and Central Arica, supported by its sister organizations and IMO, we hope that more exciting and rewarding career opportunities will open up for women in West and Central Africa and further afield.

A new generation of strong and talented women are responding to the demands of the maritime sector.

They are proving that in today's world the maritime industries are for everyone. It is not about your gender; it is about what you can do.

Thank you.