The National General Elections consumed much of people’s attention and discussions in the year 2017. An event marred with violence and corruption sparking public debates demanding for the declaration of a failed election and a string of court proceedings in between and after the elections. Months after the election, the country was still reeling from the ripple effects of PNG style of politics.
Amidst the mayhem, a lone PNG flag was raised high in the cold country of Sweden as a young Papua New Guinea, Motu – Koita, Hanuabada (HB) village woman, stepped into the history books of PNG and the Pacific Region.
There were no cheers, no accolades, just a simple smile of achievement, a quick hug from friends and a humble “Thank you” whispered silently to God Almighty, the source of her strength and knowledge.
On the 6th of November 2017, Ore Toua was awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Maritime Energy, a brand new area of study in the Maritime Sector offered by World Maritime University and Lloyds Maritime Academy.
The Award makes her the first woman in Maritime, the first Papua New Guinean and the first Pacific Islander to receive this qualification. The qualification equips Ore with the skillset to assist the SPC members through the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre in the Pacific (MTCC Pacific) Project in the areas of Climate Change mitigation and reduction particularly GHG emissions through implementation of proper safety management systems that includes energy management plan (domestic vessels) from the shipping sector.
The MTCC Pacific Project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Maritime Organisation. It also raises the prominence of the scientific and technical work of SPC as an expert organisation in this field.
This is a significant milestone for a young woman who first started out in 2014, charting new waters by becoming the first Papua New Guinean woman to graduate with a Master of Science in Maritime Affairs from the World Maritime University in Sweden. At the time of her graduation, there were only 4 other Papua New Guinea men, who had graduated from this institution; the last one was 17 years ago.
Ore is a strong advocate for young women breaking into the Maritime Industry as qualified professional experts in the areas of Seafarers, Maritime Surveyors, Naval Architects, Maritime Lawyers and even the Executive Management level in the maritime industry in general.
“The number of women in maritime professions are increasing yet shipping remains a male-dominated industry. As the industry continues to grow, sustainability for shipping will logically be dependent on more women entering the maritime professions”, Ms. Toua said.
She said attracting women to maritime careers and promoting equality requires developing formal strategies to overcome challenges inhibiting women in the maritime sector.
“Such strategies include reserving spaces for women in training programs as well as short and long-term goals for gender equality with corresponding timetables to ensure progress. It is noted that, differences between women and men are not challenges; they are talents that should be exploited and will add economic value to the workplace in the maritime sector.” Ms. Toua said.
Ore is very passionate about the maritime sector. Reflecting on the maritime history she says:
“Maritime history is filled with stories of great sailing ships, plying the massive oceans of the world, run by rugged, swaggering, masculine sailors. It may be that the 19th century sailing vessel was a male dominated and defined world, yet women are assuredly part of this rich history”.
“For different reasons, women through the centuries have stepped outside the status quo, beyond societal definitions of what is suitably feminine. These reasons included responding to dire emergencies while at sea, patriotic wartime duty, economic necessity, and a chance at a better life, search for adventure, devotion, and love”.
Ms Toua says the tides have changed. What has been a traditional male dominated industry is seeing an emergence of women breaking new waters.
“The tides have change and there are women who are now leaders in their own capacity serving at the different levels. The gap is slowing closing, but the challenges and obstacles both in physiological and psychological remains predominate. However, there are many successful women leaders in the community level working tirelessly and improving lives in homes, churches and communities at large, but not easily recognised”.
“As the shipping industry continues to evolve because of the nature of her existing, emerging issues run parallel to its existence. One of the main methods of capacity building is defined as mentoring and coaching. It is evident in the shipboard operating, where a senior officer takes a lower ranking officer under his wing to mentor and coach; there is also evidence onshore-based jobs of senior managers showing the subordinate on how the job is done – but in most cases this opportunities are found among males,” Ms Toua said.
Ms Toua believes that mentoring and coaching can be the catalyst among women who are already in leadership capacity and younger women, to achieve equal participation and promotion of women in the shipping industry.
Ore Toua currently resides in Fiji and is the Maritime Training Adviser with the Geoscience Energy & Maritime (GEM) Division, Pacific Community (SPC) http://www.spc.int.