EXCLUSIVE CONTENT INCLUDED: audio and photo gallery (below)
NL 42 An interview and top concerns for female seafaring cadets
Iman Fiqrie, Lecturer
Interview with female seafaring cadets
During an interview with 4 senior female cadets at the Malaysian Maritime Academy (MMA), also known as Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM), a few questions were asked about the top few issues or concerns for female cadets. The cadets we’ll call Nicole, Fatimah, Hamidah and Atiah were more than happy to share these concerns in a candid interview during a break while taking a recent Proficiency in Survival Craft course.
No special consideration for lady seafarers
During the candid seaside interview, I got the message loud and clear that they don’t want or need special consideration when doing job tasks! They expressed that they may not be able to get it done in 4 hours, but who says it had to be done in 4 hours in the first place, only that it had to be done! Give them time to do it. Besides, even they [the men] had to use chain blocks to move equipment– we can also rig a chain a block! I mentioned this to a few men who then also gave candid but expected responses like “time is money” and they are weak!
Another concern by these female cadets was that their male counterparts were attempting to discourage them from pursuing the seafaring line of work, e.g., telling them not to pursue foreign going certificates as these women find it hard to communicate by normal means at sea because of the distances from land and the women get “bored” and need company. They felt these were ways to discourage female cadets from pursuing such a career as they should be at home.
Personal female seafarer cadet issues
One of the more personal issues all the female cadets seemed to want answers to was on the disposal of sanitary napkins onboard ship– or at least official guidance and recognition of the issue vice developing or using home grown methods they pass to one another by word of mouth and experience. The most popular method seems to be washing them out and wrapping them in plastic bags and putting them with other plastic trash.
Women not accepted
Not surprisingly, the women felt that they were not fully accepted in the maritime industry. However, Atiah, made it clear from discussions she had with her parents that once the decision was made to pursue the seafarer line of work that she should stick with and stick with it she seems to be doing! She also says many of the ships she’s been on have never had a women or female cadet as crew onboard and don’t know how to treat them. When asked what she meant by not knowing how to treat them, Atiah suggested that men don’t know a woman’s limitations during her monthly menstruation. Generally this is not a topic men talk about, but it seemed important and relevant to these lady seafarers!
Seafaring a man’s territory
Hamidah , seemed to feel that seafaring was a man’s territory and being a engine cadet– the work was going to be tough for her. She also suggested that men expected her to be strong like them, but that they should know we are different– yet, the men want us to become like them; she went on to state that, “I cannot except that!” When asked about that, she suggested, “In anyway, I cannot be like them, I cannot be strong like them, I have a limit and they have to understand that!”
Women more accepted in corporate America than at sea
Nicole seems to feel that maybe in a corporate world people wouldn’t underestimate women, not take her serious nor look down upon her! However, when it comes to onboard, people will say “this kind of women can’t…”. Nicole comments further that, “We can reach there, but it may take four chain blocks instead of three!”
Don’t underestimate female seafarers
Fatimah agrees with most of it and adds that they meet so many people while sailing and most of them are ok and don’t underestimate them, some others really underestimate us– like we cannot do tough jobs; we can do because men also use some of the same apparatus when doing overhauls and tough jobs. When it comes time for major overhaul of pumps, attached pumps or going into small spaces they won’t ask us to do it– I will try my best!