According to a Seafarers’ Charity recent report, women seafarers remain invisible and/or unintentionally overlooked by port-welfare workers. In that regard, the report provides eight (8) recommendations to port-welfare providers for consideration, with the aim to acquire a better understanding of women seafarers and their needs.
In particular, the Seafarers’ Charity recommends the following:
#1 Port-welfare center to provide women seafarers with access to facilities for the bulk disposal of used sanitary products.
#2 Port-welfare center to make available to women seafarers menstrual care products, either free of charge or on an ‘at cost’ basis. (These should include disposableitems such as sanitary towels and tampons but importantly they should also include re-usable items such as menstrual cups and period pants)
#3 Staffed centres to remain in place as a matter of priority as these provide women seafarers, in particular, with a much-needed source of human interaction.
#4 Seafarers’ centres to review the material provision made for womenseafarers paying special attention to available clothing size and style, the subject matter of magazines and books, toiletries and skin care products, and gifts and games.
#5 Seafarers’ centres to do their utmost to attract a staff body (whether paid or unpaid) with a balanced gender profile.
#6 Charitable organisations to consider the development of an app to facilitate chat facilities for women seafarers which include access to general chat forums for women seafarers (only) alongside more specialised one-to-one chat services with appropriately qualified and experienced personnel.
We further recommend that this app is supported by provision for shipboard follow-up visits to women seafarers who are in need and that account is taken of some women’s preference to talk with other women who have an understanding of shipboard life.
#7 Seafarers’ centres review the facilities provided to seafarers and consider the degree to which they offer a balance between amenities that are generally more attractive to men and amenities that are more attractive to women.
#8 Information to be provided to women seafarers about the support and facilities which are specifically targeted to their needs in port. This information should be taken on board by chaplains and ship visitors (in hard copy format) but should also be described on the websites of seafarers’ centres and welfare organisations.
The report concludes that the status of women as a minority group, in a highly male dominated crew complement on board cargo vessels, generates a series of challenges and needs which they would not otherwise be likely to experience.
They may feel unwanted and ‘out of place’, they are likely to experience frustrations over training and promotions, they may feel driven to work even harder than anyone else on boar causing themselves a great deal of fatigue and stress, they may feel that they are constantly scrutinised and sexualised by male colleagues, they may be harassed and experience considerable fear of both harassment and gossip, and in this broad context they may choose to withdraw from many elements of the shipboard social life and become isolated from crew members on board.
The report highlights that as long as port-based welfare services fail to meet women seafarers’ needs, then it is likely that they will be under-utilised by women despite their additional burdens and need for support. ”In a context where companies are failing to meet some of the most basic needs of women
seafarers, and where shore-based welfare services also fail them, it is reasonable to think that some talented women seafarers may be lost to the industry.” the research reads in its concluding remarks.