United Nations, June 9: Women are engaged in all aspects of interaction with our ocean, yet their voices are often missing at the decision-making level, the head of the United Nations cultural agency said on World Oceans Day on Saturday, emphasising that “we must ensure diversity and gender inclusiveness at all levels” to set a balanced course for humanity and foster innovative solutions for the ocean.
“We need to empower each and every citizen to take care of the ocean and enable all women to play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing our ocean”, said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, pointing out that this year’s “special edition” of World Oceans Day links the themes of gender equality and ocean preservation.
Women engage in all aspects of ocean interaction, yet in many parts of the world, women’s contribution, both towards ocean-based livelihoods like fishing, and conservation efforts, are invisible and, gender inequality persists “from the marine industry to the field of ocean science”.
The UN says there is also very little data and research on these issues, and a concerted action towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is still needed in all ocean-related sectors to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5).
Not only is the ocean an increasingly important battleground for achieving gender equality, Ms Azoulay said, “but building a more gender equal society also means empowering women and girls to be the actors of positive ocean change”.
Citing UNESCO’s Global Ocean Science Report, Ms Azoulay highlighted that women represent only 38 per cent of all ocean scientists. And while women make up 50 per cent of the marine and coastal industries workforce, “their wages continue to be lower than those of men”.
The UN chief highlighted that "confronting gender inequality is essential” to achieving the ocean-related Goal and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We must ensure an end to unsafe work conditions and guarantee that women have an equal role in managing ocean-related activities,” he underlined.
In closing, Guterres urged governments, international organizations, private companies, communities and individuals to “promote gender equality and the rights of women and girls as a crucial contribution to meeting ocean challenges”.
Plastic pollution in the ocean is an especially pressing issue, having increased tenfold since 1980, according to the first Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, launched on 6 May in UNESCO.
Moreover, plastic debris leads to the deaths of more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year.
Against the backdrop, she noted that because “ocean challenges require urgent and collective action to reverse current trends”, the General Assembly proclaimed 2021-2030 as the Ocean Science Decade for Sustainable Development.
At UN Headquarters in New York, storytellers and speakers globally have gathered to share their perspectives on building greater ocean and gender literacy and discovering ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities, such as marine scientific research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking, policy-making and management.