The Philippines started deploying women marine deck officers and marine engineers on international vessels in the late 1990s, sending 1,404 of them to sea from 2011 to 2014.
In this male-dominated marine engineering profession, female seafarers compete equally with them by equipping themselves with the same knowledge and skills as men, forget about fashion and make-up and wear uniforms “like one of the boys.” They perform all duties that their male colleagues do, including dropping the heavy anchor chain, carrying a heavy load and mixing chemicals to prevent ship pipes from rusting.
Women officers on board international vessels sometimes find their climb to the top strewn with requests for sexual favors from superiors.
One day at sea, Filipina marine engineer Monique Arrojado found herself alone with the Danish captain of an international cargo vessel.
“There is something in you. I really like you,” the captain bluntly told Arrojado, then 22 and a fourth engineer, in his office.
Arrojado was offended. The captain was already married.
“Sir, I came on board to work and not to look for a boyfriend,” she shot back.
Despite the rebuff, her boss would persist in inviting Arrojado to his office and it took her every means to make sure she would never be alone again with him.
All the 10 women officers interviewed for this report said they have experienced various forms of sexual harassment. Most incidents happened when they were junior officers.
Sexual harassment usually comes in the form of sexist comments, an invitation to the cabin and offer of paid sex.
Because of their sexist views, male officers tend to underestimate the women’s skills and capability.
Filipino women officers like Arrojado, now 26 and a third engineer, who dare challenge sexist beliefs and gender stereotypes in the seafaring industry.
(Editor’s Note: The author is a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She interviewed the women officers as part of her policy research, “Empowering Filipino Women Seafarers,” funded under the University of the Philippines President Edgardo J. Angara Fellowship Award. The study is scheduled to be released in June. Vera Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look into current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)
Source: ABS-CBN News