2019 WORLD OCEANS DAY: “GENDER AND THE OCEANS.”

3By Ms. Salma Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: On 7 June, the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea hosted a conference to commemorate the World Oceans Day (8 June) under the theme: “Gender and the Oceans.” Storytellers and speakers from around the world came to share their perspectives on how to ensure cleaner oceans as well as ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities such as; marine research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking.

Mrs. Aunofo Havea, the founder of Vaka and Moana, was one of the panelists at the conference.  She is also the first licensed female captain in all of Polynesia, and the creator of the “Swimming with Whales Industry” in her native country of Tonga. Mrs. Havea inspired the audience with the story of her struggle to save Whales in the shores of her region since her youth. She shared the experience of the horror she felt as she watched the last whales in the coasts of her country being killed for profit by the seafood industries. This was what inspired her to engage in the advocacy for the preservation of biodiversity in the oceans as she encouraged more women to follow her lead.

Besides the emphasis on the importance of women in advocacy for the health of the oceans, another speaker, Mr. Tun Lin, spoke on the issue of human trafficking. Mr. Tun Lin, (a trafficking survivor from Myanmar) spoke about his personal experience of being sold by a ‘friend’ to fishing vessel operators from Thailand. He was enslaved and forced to work on the fishing boat for 11 years. He could not escape, despite several attempts to do so because of the threat on his family by his traffickers. Mr. Tun Lin narrated his ordeal of being tortured, sometimes with electric shocks.  He eventually escaped in 2014.  Mr. Tun Lin noted that, he was at the United Nations to share his story so that more people would become aware of the prevalence of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the seafood industry.”

Lastly, Ms. Patima Tungpuchayakul, the co-founder of the Labor Rights Promotion 4Network, also spoke. According to Ms. Tungpuchayakul, the mission of her organization is to investigate human trafficking incidences, to rescue victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. They also offer services such as healthcare, education, and shelter to the victims. Ms. Patima  Tungpuchayakul said that her organization has so far rescued over 5000 children, women, and men who were trafficked and enslaved on fishing vessels. She noted that modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the fishing industry is not just a South Asian problem,  but that it is a global issue.  And as such, she urged the UN to come up with internationally agreed regulatory policy to ensure for just wage, safety, and human rights of men and women who work in the fishing industry.

Read more:

Watch: http://webtv.un.org,

UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea: https://bit.ly/2XQVeYd

The UN World Oceans Day: https://bit.ly/2s7zlrw

 

 

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