Following a proposal by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, the Council endorsed the theme which is expected to highlight the important contribution of women all over the world to the maritime sector. Mr Lim noted:

This theme will give IMO the opportunity to work with various maritime stakeholders towards achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 5, to foster an environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes and to encourage more conversation for gender equality in the maritime space.

Although women form 39.3% of the global workforce, women seafarers constitute only 2% of the total number of seafarers worldwide, creating a need for the shipping community to bridge this gender gap.

Social perceptions even today lean to indicate that such jobs require skills more associated with men. Lack of encouragement by families and society, absence of relevant educators and of organizations, as well as the fear of bullying and sexual harassment, have been identified as the key factors impeding the stimulus for women to select a maritime career.

Several organizations, unions and companies have set the ground in the last decade for creating a greater awareness to people generally and sensitize specifically the male seafarers towards acceptance of women onboard.

IMO has been making a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and help women achieve a representation that is in keeping with 21st century expectations. This work has been focused through IMO's gender and capacity building programme, which is now in its thirtieth year.

Back in 1988, few maritime training institutes opened their doors to female students. IMO was in the vanguard of United Nations specialized agencies that forged a global programme known as the Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector. Carried out over several phases, it put in place an institutional framework to incorporate a gender dimension into IMO's policies and procedures, with resolutions adopted to ensure access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector.

Today, IMO's newly renamed, Women in Maritime programme is going strong. Empowering women fuels thriving economies across the world, spurs growth and development, and benefits all of us working in the global maritime community as we strive towards safe, secure, clean and sustainable shipping,

...Mr. Lim added.

Female graduates of IMO’s global training institutes, the World Maritime University (WMU) and the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) are today working as maritime administrators and decision makers.

IMO also supports the empowerment of women through gender-specific fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries.

IMO has supported the creation seven regional associations for women in the maritime sector across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands. Access to these regional networks have provided members with a platform to discuss gender issues; a golden thread of worldwide maritime communication and improved implementation of IMO instruments.

In addition, the European Institute for Gender Equality has created the online Platform on Gender Mainstreaming to support the EU institutions and governmental bodies with the integration of a gender perspective in their work. The Platform provides insights on the relevance of gender in a variety of policy areas and offers online tools for gender mainstreaming.

The selection of the theme, "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community" will ensure a renewed focus on the IMO women in maritime programme, and on achieving the goals of SDG 5, throughout 2019.