RCYC ACADEMY REPORT – by Lindani Mchunu

On the 25th of June 2019 I attended a conference hosted by the Department of Transport and SAMSA in Cape Town. The event was one of three, held annually, in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. This year’s theme was ‘gender equality’ in Maritime. South Africa is one of many nations that are signatories of the IMO’s (International Maritime Organisation) maritime policies. The organisation sets the standard in maritime policy and regulations across the globe to ensure there is a global maritime standard and practise. The theme in 2019 for all countries was “gender equality”.

From the onset when the MC welcomed everyone it was clear this was not going to be a simple topic. The panel of speakers were all female with the exception of Mr Dumisani Ntuli the Deputy Director General of maritime transport, who was the facilitator for the day. The RCYC Academy was invited to the event as a grassroots development programme, which has become the corner stone of maritime training and awareness. I am pleased to inform you all, that our Club and Academy has made a name for itself in the highest echelons of the maritime industry. With high dropout rates in the cadet training programme and lack of mentorship and support, we have found ourselves playing a critical role, in introducing cadets to the ocean, through sailing and preparing them for a life at sea on a vessel. Most of the panellists including the facilitator, emphasised the need for a programme like ours and the important role all yacht clubs have to play nationally in dealing with the crisis of cadet training. It would seem that if South Africa is serious about becoming a seafaring nation, yacht clubs have a critical role to play in that framework.

This topic of ‘gender equality’ made me reflect on our own Club and Academy, our sport and livelihood. How are we doing in terms of empowering women? The academy has quite a few young ladies sailing with us. Because we seek to empower them without the usual male condescension, we decided to create a ladies team that will compete on an equal footing with the boys. The one message that rang true quite a few times at the conference was, women do not need favours or special treatment. They just seek equal opportunity and equal recognition. Most of the panellists stressed the point that this should not be a discussion for women only, men are an integral part of the dialogue and if any meaningful change will take place, they must be part of the process. I couldn’t help but think how true this statement is, even when applied to race relations. In all wars that have been fought in history, the victor always understands that to establish long term peace, you must work with the enemy. Men and women are not enemies, at least I hope not. Men and women are counterparts. We need each other. Nature is filled with duality, which is not a coincidence. Two hands, two eyes, two ears, on and on it goes.

We are not meant to compete, we are m eant to supplement and complement one another. We all know when to use our left hand and when to use our right, we know when to use our left foot or our right one. This notion of one is better than the other is false we are equal parts of the same whole. If you can do it as a man you can bet your bottom dollar a woman can do it too, she might do it differently than you, but she will do it. We spend most of our time in the ocean. The ocean for me has always been the great equaliser, giving the same conditions to all who traverse it without fear or favour. The wind cares not whether the bow man is male or female, it will blow from the same direction with the same intensity for all of us.

One of the not so pleasant topics, that came up in the conference was the fact that females are sexualised onboard vessels. Some are raped and continually experience sexual harassment. Some shipping companies refuse to take women on-board, in fear that they will get pregnant and have to leave, or experience sexual harassment or worse, rape. Which could make them liable. What is disappointing is the fact that everyone one is not worried about the females experience on-board a vessel but rather how it will affect the operations negatively. When did we become a species that hates the very people that bring life into this world, when did we become a species that hates the very process that a women must go through to bring life into this world?

It would seem to me human beings hate themselves, we are pushing full steam ahead in the technology of robotics and Artificial Intelligence. The main reason behind it all is because companies want labour that does not have to take maternity leave, or have mental break-downs and burnout. Labour that does not protest exploitation and unfair working conditions. Industry is hungry for labour that does not feel, debate, think, and protest. Industry wants the labour that least resembles a human being. To me that is a form of self-hate. How can society at large hate the very things that make us human?

In a world where sanity prevails, gender equality, should not even be a topic. But we are an evolving species, our future should always be better than our past, we should always review our morals and practices with each generation. If we do not do that than we are slowly heading for extinction. It is not the strongest, the smartest nor the wealthiest that will survive this life thing. It is the most adaptable. If anyone amongst us cries fowl, we should all turn and listen, for it means a new dawn is soon approaching and it is time for us to review the way we do things. Imagine if an Alien Race attacked us, all the injustices we put each other through will mean absolutely nothing. All the differences we share will mean absolutely nothing, our convictions, morals, religions and gender will mean absolutely nothing to that Alien race, if all they want is to annihilate the human race. When that happens, we will find that a woman is just as useful as a man.

Come on let’s get our act together before we are forced to. We all know how this works, nature, life, gives you multiple chances to get with the program and if you don’t, it doles out the consequences and most often than not they are quite severe and they affect everyone, not just the culprits.

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