News on Sunday

Women as Strong Contenders in the Mauritian Economy

The speakers panel.

The group Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) Mauritius organised a seminar at the Trevessa House at Mer Rouge, Port Louis, on Tuesday 30th October, pertaining to the theme “The Contribution of the Mauritian Women in the Socio-economic development of the country for the past fifty years.” During the Seminar, WiLAT Mauritius also partnered with the UN Women to launch the “HE for SHE” Campaign.

Nazeema Seelarbocus, the chairperson of WiLAT Mauritius, declares that this seminar aims to empower women and make them aware of their right status in the economy of our country. “Most women are not paid though they may work the same number of hours as men. Worse, they are often insulted and humiliated,” she advocates. According to her, we can aspire for a better world with women contributing on an equal basis in the economy. “There have been a lot of research conducted that demonstrate how women are not in top management positions in big companies in spite of having the same qualifications as their male counterparts,” she highlighted. Though WILAT is actually restricted to Women in Logistics and Transport, Nazeema Seelarbocus invites other organisations to join her for the advancement of women in all other fields.

Christine Umuton addressing the audience.
Christine Umuton addressing the audience.
Nazeema pledges  for HE for SHE.
Nazeema pledges for HE for SHE.

In his speech, Dass Appadu, the chairman of CILT in Mauritius, pointed out that it is of utmost significance to empower our women. “Women constitute more than 50% of the total population, almost 617,353 in number. Some 175,200 are currently in paid employment. 19,600 are operating their own businesses and trades and 3,400 of them are entrepreneurs,” he clarified.  He asserts that this should give an indication of the crucial and productive role that women have and play in the economic and social transformation of Mauritius.  In his opinion, we need strong women so that we can continue to break down walls, barriers and challenges and all forms of stereotypes and prejudices against women. “More than ever, our society needs women at all levels to change the dynamics and reshape the conventional debate with a view to ensuring that women’s voices are heard and sufficiently heeded, not simply overlooked and ignored,” he added. Investment in women is perceived as a key way forward to generate positive and longer term outcomes and benefits.

Christine Umutoni, UN Resident Coordinator in Mauritius and Seychelles, for her part, explained how the campaign “He for She” is gaining ground internationally. It was launched in 2014 by the United Nations and has since seen around 1.9 million commitments around the world to act for gender equality. The campaign has gained increased momentum with more than 2 billion conversations on social media and activities being conducted in all corners of the globe. “The ‘He for She’ campaign remains grounded in the fact that gender equality is a Human Rights issue that affects both genders and is seen as a solidarity movement that calls upon men to lobby towards furthering the equality movement,” she explained. Christine Umutoni pointed out that the McKinsey Global Institute report has demonstrated that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Gender equality, according to her, should therefore be seen as smart economics and the private sector would no doubt benefit fully by improving parity between men and women within their organisations. “I urge heads of companies to adhere to Principle 3 of the new Code of Corporate Governance for Mauritius in 2016, which calls upon diversity at the Board level,” she concluded.

For Priscilla Legris, Family Welfare and Protection Officer at the Ministry of Gender Equality, the way forward is to ensure that women have equal access to work, equal access to higher education, especially in STEM disciplines, that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths which are significantly under represented regarding women. At the Ministry, she explained, there is an ongoing campaign on Gender Concept to sensitise the population on gender equity for both men and women. “The way forward is to ensure the implication of men for the advancement of women. The launching of ‘He for She’ campaign today by the WILAT Mauritius is a commendable initiative. It is a good business to have men as partners in the promotion of Women Empowerment in our Mauritian society,” she explains.

Problems and challenges facing the Mauritian women and its solutions

Khadeeja Luckun, Managing Director of Maersk Line, chose to elucidate on the challenges that many women face at work. “Discrimination is the most common problem, “she said. Khadeeja explained that discriminations can be in various shapes, such as inequality of wages and benefits, assumption that only a certain type of so-called easy jobs can be filled by women, access to supervisory or management level opportunities or despite being over qualified compared to male counterparts. “The most dreaded challenge remains the safety aspect of any work, but for women in particular, linked to the real undeniable physical differences between men and women,” she added.  Women have been throughout and to this day subjected to harassment: Physical, verbal and moral which contribute to a large extent to them changing their career fields. The sources of these problems are that women have, unfortunately, a tendency of holding back when it comes to their career due to a lack of confidence, fear of failure and the need to be perfect for a position before applying. Besides, there is always a prejudice that women will be taking more leaves than men due to maternity or personal issues. 

“To remedy this, a gender sensitive approach which companies can adopt means recognising and taking account of the differences between male and female workers,” she advised. She added that employers can aim to make the work place safer and easier for everyone; increase focus on security and create a safe environment for women to make their voices heard concerning any harassment or insecurity faced. Moreover, companies can involve women in decision making, provide a better support system for women accessing leadership positions, such as mentoring platforms.

About WiLAT

WiLAT in Mauritius was launched in March 2016, and since its inception, it has been very active in organising many activities, including workshops, seminars, forums on key issues such as climate change, women empowerment, prevention against road traffic accidents, and entrepreneurship.  Their mission is to promote the status of women in the supply chain, logistics and transport industries, to bring together those who help the career development of women, and to provide a support network for women in the sector.