To save the ocean, we must first empower women
Singapore (CNN) – When I was 14 years old, I picked up a copy of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The book follows the all-male crew across the ocean, braving the inhospitable waters on their quest to locate an elusive whale.
Address inequalities, protect the marine world
By overlooking the unique contributions that women can bring to the table, we are sabotaging our own efforts to protect an ocean under threat. Organizations all over the world show us how this can be addressed.
The Gender in Fisheries Team (GIFT), in the Caribbean, works to highlight the roles women play in small scale fisheries, simultaneously addressing the discrimination that comes into play in terms of workers’ rights and participation. They represent a step forward in overcoming the gender inequalities at play within this field, and bring us towards narrowing the gender divide within ocean conservation and management.
To expand our advocacy, we can no longer ignore the specific prejudices that women face when it comes to the ocean. These cannot be overturned simply by the establishment of quotas or guidelines — a study in the Pacific showed that education alone does not translate to equal participation from both men and women in development policy.
Rather, there is a necessary cultural shift that needs to be undertaken to highlight the equal value of a woman’s input when it comes to sustainable management. While this may sound like an insurmountable task, the power of an individual to make waves cannot be overemphasized.
My own journey has been greatly influenced by strong role models such as Sylvia Earle and Rachel Carson, marine biologists who made their voices heard when gender inequality was even more prevalent.
In 1970, Earle led the first all-female team of aquanauts and later became the first female chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As I continue to pursue marine conservation, strong female mentors in my various places of work have been a constant source of inspiration to me. These women are showing me every day that people like me can make a difference to the ocean and the life it supports and that my contribution is no less valuable than anyone else’s.
This World Ocean Day, I urge you to think about how you can overcome these biases to establish a more equitable and accessible ocean for all.