(Warning: This is a wordy post- but totally worth it!)
I have decided to do things differently every new month. I’ve Started a new segment ‘Penning my story’ where I get to share my career and life journey as a seafarer and also empower women to continue achieving their best regardless of their gender barriers)
For those who are not aware, I am a navigating officer with a Second officer Rank on board merchant navy ships and a marine pilot at the Kenya Ports Authority. Now before I say much, here is a brief insight on this career so that you may comprehend the story that follows.
- To rise to your next rank you need to work onboard foreign going vessels for a period of not less than 18months and some class work.
- Kenya doesn’t own merchant navy ships so one needs to be contracted from foreign companies
- This is done through crewing agencies and no; we have no crewing agency in Kenya.
- Finally it is a male dominated career. If im not wrong we make up 2% the maritime task force (click here)
Now that you have a rough idea let me tell you my story.
It’s been a rough couple of months trying to get attached on board foreign going ships. It has been accompanied by sending a number emails to various crewing agencies and shipping companies but all in vain. Thus I decided to embark on a new journey, doing my MBA course (that’s a story for another day). Unfortunately every now and then I would send emails they would come back with responses such as, ‘sorry we are not hiring at the moment.’
It never quite bothered me because I was self occupied with my course until the past few couple of weeks. Being on my second last MBA semester, I knew it was time I got back into intensely searching for attachment as an officer on board foreign going vessels. Luckily a friend (also a Kenyan officer) in Malaysia who once saw me maneuvering the tug boats during my first pilotage training phase sent me an email congratulating me for breaking the odds and becoming the first female marine pilot in the country. During an intense conversation of trying to explain my challenges as a female in the maritime career, it struck me, why not ask him for help, after all Malaysia and Singapore are companies that not only have large shipping lines but also quite a number of crewing agencies. I would have sworn he was heaven sent, he immediately scheduled to meet me, whereby I gave him copies of my certificates and licenses and he promised to do his best once he gets back.
Now fast forward to a few days ago where I forwarded some of my male colleagues documents too and asked him to drop those in the various crewing agencies and he did not object as a matter of fact he told me he will get back to me on Saturday with the result which he is positive will be good.
How excited was I on Saturday evening? Ready to receive the good news! That was when the bombshell was dropped, what he said in a nutshell was, ‘Now I understand why you said it is hard being a woman in this career, Liz I tried so hard but they were initially willing to give you a job until they saw you were a female and they would come up with all sorts of excuses. On the other hand they are more than willing to accept your male colleagues.’ My heart just broke and tears just welled up my eyes. For a minute I wanted to ask God why me? If I’m not wrong I think for a split second I may have convinced my self to quit the whole damn thing. I think he noticed I had taken some time to respond to his text, so he sent this: ‘Don’t worry I’m still hopeful and I will keep on searching and I replied: ‘I’m not worried one bit I know it will pan out okay.’
After sending that text, I wondered why did I lie to this young man? I’m literally finishing a box of tissues with tears of despair. Then amidst angry sniffles it hit me; perhaps it was not a lie. Perhaps it was the truth. That one fine day things will actually fall in place. I wiped my tears and realized that I’m penning my own story, and it won’t be beautiful if sticks and stones were not thrown my way, if I didn’t stumble and fall once in a while, if I didn’t face all these challenges. It’s by overcoming these great challenges that a better me is molded. Therefore I’ve decided, bring it on! Turn me down i send two more emails two different companies. Reject me for being a female, I empower more women to join the field, question if I can keep up with the tight work schedule I dare you to give me a chance where I will work my tail off!
Loves, if you are sitting there feeling discouraged or less worthy because someone or something stalled your progress, it’s time to keep that head up high and fight that challenge head on. Eyes on the prize ladies, Eyes on the prize!! You are writing your story so make it as beautiful as it could possible be by tackling those challenges fearlessly. You are phenomenal, and God’s purpose for you is greater than you can imagine Let no one write your story but yourself.
P.S if you own a ship and stumble upon this post you best hire me I won’t disappoint 😉
see you next new month loves…penning my story 2