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SeyCCAT heard the views of PhD student, Karine Rassool. Karine is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of York and also, a grantee of the Blue Grants Fund 1. The main objective of her research is to improve small-scale fisheries management in Seychelles by establishing a socio-economic baseline of small-scale fishers. Through a series of interviews and surveys with stakeholders, her research also aims to understand the current status of the sector from the perspective of different stakeholders, elicit the challenges being faced by the sector as well as some potential solutions.

Karine shares with us her views on being a woman in the blue economy.

What is your proudest achievement for the ocean?

Without a doubt, it must be setting up The Ocean Project Seychelles, a local non-governmental organisation, whose mission is to tackle marine debris, in particular marine plastic pollution, in Seychelles, through education, action and research.

Do you believe that there is gender equality when it comes to leadership, community action, and investors and businesses in the blue economy?    

In my view, the blue economy is one of the few sectors in Seychelles where there is little gender equality.

Having spent the last seven years at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), working with mostly male colleagues and fishermen, I’d say that leadership and investment in fisheries and the blue economy in general is mostly male dominated. In my view, the ideology that the sea is “a man’s world” still exists in Seychelles and this has perpetuated in both the private and the public sector.

Women that work in maritime related fields are mostly involved in administrative roles and, in my view, much remains to be done to encourage young girls to take up a career in the maritime sector.

I recently heard of an anecdote which I thought would be fitting to summarise the issue of gender equality in the blue economy – a top government official recently exclaimed that there is no such thing as fishers, only fisherMEN. If government leaders are not open to using gender neutral terms in fisheries, then I can only conclude that a lot more sensitisation is required, starting with the leadership, before we can achieve gender equality in all aspects of the blue economy.

Are there challenges that you face as a woman working in this space? If so, what are they?

Apart from the odd sexist joke, I personally haven’t faced many challenges as a woman working in fisheries.

If anything, I’ve sometimes benefited from being a woman, especially when it comes to working with fishers. I find that fishers are generally more comfortable and open with women and confirmed this when I recently started my fisher surveys.

Do you have advice for the younger generation or other women who are thinking about taking up a role in this space?

Don’t let society dictate your passion – As I once was, I imagine a lot of the younger generation might be worried that working in fisheries (or any maritime related sector) is a low-class job. There is no such thing; the excitement of working in such a dynamic sector is unparalleled and that can only explain why once most people start an ocean-related job, they never want to leave!

Have you contributed or thought of contributing to achieving gender equality in the blue economy or your workplace? What is this contribution? 

I strongly believe that gender equality in such a male dominated sector will only be achieved when women support other women.

I am the founding chairperson of the local chapter of the Association for women in the maritime sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (WOMESA), that for the first time brought together a group of women working in all aspects of the maritime sector in Seychelles. WOMESA’s mission is to advocate for gender equity, improve women’s access to maritime training and technology and promote their advancement to key decision-making levels in the maritime. It was empowering to see that although we are few, there are many women, working in the blue economy, that are breaking the glass ceiling.