Women at the helm: The future of maritime and border security on display in Fiji

November 7, 2023
Women in maritime and border management

Participants from Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu are in Pacific Harbour for this important regional conference.

Photo: UNDP

Pacific Harbour, Fiji: Despite its historically male-dominated nature, the maritime and border management sectors are making significant progress towards a more equitable workforce.

A two-day conference has commenced in Pacific Harbour, bringing together industry leaders from Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu to discuss and advocate for more women to be promoted to decision-making roles, creating a space to network and empower those working across a variety of positions in each sector.

The goal of the conference is to highlight the vital role that women play within the maritime and border management sectors, advocating for information sharing, and collaboration to accelerate progress away from the traditional administrative roles that women once held in the past.

The conference is supported by the Government of Japan, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office Integrated Border Management (IBM) Project. The three recipient countries of Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu are being supported to reinforce their capacities, capabilities, and systems for effective and efficient movement of travelers and cargo, and to strengthen links for data and knowledge sharing, inter-agency and cross-regional cooperation.

According to the International Maritime Organization, women make up only a small percentage of the total workforce in the industry, with estimates suggesting that they account for only two percent of the world's seafarers and 20 percent of shore-based roles. Current research by the Pacific Community has found that of the 16,000 people working in the maritime transport industry, only one in 11 are women.

For border management, the global figure of women working within the sector is even lower, sitting at approximately 5 percent of the total workforce.  

Munkhtuya Altangerel, UNDP Pacific Resident Representative, said that by raising the profile of women in the maritime and border management sectors, together we are strengthening the region’s commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 - Gender Equality

“There is no shortage of evidence that speaks to the fact that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Change happens slowly before change happens fast, and societies with greater gender equality enjoy better economic growth, communities have greater social cohesion, and workplaces have an equitable staffing structure which best reflects the communities in which they serve,” she said. 

Women in maritime and border management

Minister Tabuya stressed that to achieve gender equality, we must all work together.

Photo: UNDP

Speaking at the opening ceremony Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Lynda Tabuya, said that while giving women a seat at the decision-making table was of critical importance, male allies were also essential should we look to achieve sustained gender parity.

“To achieve gender equality, we must all work together. Male allies can help by using their voices and privilege to challenge existing norms and behaviors, and I hope that through collaborative endeavors we can change the narrative of these industries being male dominated,” she said.

UNDP’s Integrated Border Management Project is implemented with key partners - the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The conference concludes on 8 November and is a collaboration between UNDP and IOM, in partnership with UN Women and the Pacific Community.

For further media enquiries please contact:

Nick Turner, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. (P) +679 971 6458 - (E) nicholas.turner@undp.org