Liberia: Commissioner Lighe Commits To Increase Women’s Quota In Maritime Labor Force

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Statistics show that women’s quota in the maritime industry labor force is at an unacceptable 1.3% or 24,059 out of the 1.89 million seafarers globally. These nerve-wrenching statistics have reached a spoiling point so much so that the Commissioner/CEO of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), Cllr. Neto Zarzar Lighe, Sr. has committed his leadership to rewriting the narrative of traditional hindrances that have unjustly neglected the inclusion of capable women in the recruitment of seafarers. He said he would do this by taking deliberate steps through the Liberia Maritime Training Institute (LMTI). Commissioner Lighe, however, recognized the progress that is being made in the industry to allow women to place critical roles and break barriers.
International Day for Women in Maritime was established in 2021 to celebrate women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention, and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector, raise the profile of women in maritime, strengthen IMO’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) and support work to address the current gender imbalance in maritime. It is celebrated annually on 18 May.

Speaking at events marking the official celebration of the International Day for Women in Maritime in Monrovia on May 15, 2024, the LiMA Boss said this year’s theme: “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping The Future of Maritime Safety”, echoes the growing threat to women participation in the maritime industry while the local theme: “Recognizing the Crucial Role of Women in Maritime Safety”, underscores the significance of providing women with equal opportunities in this pivotal sector.
“We must acknowledge the persistent challenges that hinder women’s full engagement in maritime safety which include unequal opportunities in the maritime sector; the scarcity of mentorship programs for women and an industry culture that can sometimes be resistant to change. Our mission is to tackle these obstacles and foster an environment that encourages greater participation of women and creating a truly inclusive sector,” Cllr. Lighe emphasized.
He added, “The Liberia Maritime Authority, under our watch, is dedicated to fostering a fair future in the maritime industry- one that offers women a secured path to success.”
According to him, the Liberia Maritime Authority will invest in education and training initiatives to achieve this milestone commitment to empower females to pursue maritime careers. “We will also take deliberate steps at the Liberia Maritime Training Institute to boost female enrollment and provide an environment that nurtures their professional development,” Commissioner Lighe indicated.
He stressed the crucial need for mentorship programs for young women in the maritime industry to advance women empowerment in this essential sector, especially by pairing aspiring young women with experienced maritime professionals which would offer priceless mentorship and motivation. “We also aim to ensure that maritime stakeholders embrace diversity and create an inclusive atmosphere for all with a particular focus on increasing females’ participation in every aspect of the industry,” the LiMA Boss pointed out.
In her keynote address, Madam Gbeme Horace-Kollie, the Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection emphasized the essential contributions of women in the maritime industry and lauded the commitment of the Liberia Maritime Authority to empower more women.
She underscored the need to address ongoing gender disparities and called for collective efforts to empower women through technical training and inclusive policies.
Minister Horace-Kollie urged stakeholders to ensure that women do not only participate but also lead in the maritime sector, envisioning a future of equality and opportunity.

The celebration commenced with a vibrant march from 72nd Boulevard to Congo Town, followed by an indoor program featuring a panel discussion. Distinguished panelists from the National Port Authority, the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG), the Liberia Maritime Training Institute (LMTI), and LiMA shared insights and experiences, highlighting the critical role of women in maritime safety.

In special remarks, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Robert Wilmot Kpadeh, emphasized the critical need for gender equality in the maritime industry. He highlighted Liberia’s commitment to the IMO’s initiatives and resolutions, particularly Resolution A.1147 (31), which underscores the inclusion of women in maritime roles.
“Liberia, as a renowned player within the global maritime industry, certainly shares the duty with all IMO member states not only to celebrate this day with the planning and execution of a colorful event but to take genuine and deliberate actions to significantly mitigate the gender gap beleaguering the maritime sector locally and globally,” the Liberian Permanent Representative to the IMO stressed.

According to him, it is heartbreaking to know that there are only about 2% women in the maritime labor force.
“I should state how heartbreaking it is to know that the total percentage of female seafarers working in the maritime industry globally is just 2% according to IMO statistics. This equates to approximately 24,000 women seafarers out of a total global workforce of 1.89 million. This disparity is egregious, despicable, disheartening, and I must state loudly, UNACCEPTABLE. Women, in this new era of civilization and emerging realities, should not and must not be treated with such harsh inequality, depravity, and exclusion. This must change!

I, therefore charge that deliberate and sincere efforts be brought to bear by all member states of the IMO to address this disturbing and shameful inequality and disparity. The need for the Liberian maritime industry to play a leadership role in changing this unpalatable and depressive narrative over the next decade and beyond cannot be overemphasized,” the Liberian Maritime Envoy stated emphatically.

However, he indicated that the level of attention the full complement of the Maritime Authority (LiMA) has given this day, specifically this year, certainly emphasizes the collective relevance and interest we have attached to the core concept for which this day has been set aside.

The celebration was characterized by a panel discussion on how the role of women in the industry can be enhanced. The Panelists included Maritime professionals from the Liberia Maritime Authority, the Ministry of National Defense (Coast Guard), the Liberian Registry, and the Liberia National Port Authority (the Seaport Police).

This year’s celebration of the International Day for Women in Maritime brought together stakeholders from the Ministry of National Defense, the Liberia National Police, the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency, the National Port Authority, the Ministry of Health, the Liberia Immigration Service, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, the Petroleum Importers Association of Liberia, APM Terminals, the Liberia National Fire Service, the Environmental Protection Agency among others.

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