Elizabeth Marami did her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination to mark the end of her high school education. Being an A student, she scored A’s in the national examination. The grade would earn her admission into any of the best universities in the world to study a prestigious course.
She indeed got the chance to study Law at the University of Nairobi, one of the best universities in Africa. However, that was not what she wanted. Instead, she opted to study Nautical Technology in Alexandria, Egypt. She says she wanted a course that would challenge her.
I wanted to pursue something that would challenge me. So, when I heard about a scholarship, I could not resist the temptation to apply. The scholarship would have me leave Kenya for Alexandria, Egypt to study navigation.
So Nautical Technology it was. Marami eventually made history as she became Kenya’s first female marine pilot at the age of 27. This was after five years of extensive studies in Egypt, where she was one of the two female students taking the course. She says she never got the chance to have fun like any other college student since there was no time. Her classes would extend until late into the evening.
I never had a typical college life of fun and socializing.
But her studies weren’t even the hardest part of her journey of becoming Kenya’s first female marine pilot. Being a woman and the only female among the eight males who received the same scholarship was. The course requires that the students do an 18-month practical internship on the sea. All her male colleagues quickly found sea time aboard ships, but that was not the case for her.
She explained that all that was not because she was less qualified but because of her gender.
I walked from door to door to different shipping companies for 3 years to get placement, I got turned down severally because of gender and as time went by, age. I watched my male colleagues progress as they got placement in a company that rejected me because I was female.
But Marami was not ready to give up yet. In 2017, a company offered her an opportunity to work as a cadet, which she took up willingly. She hoped that all she needed was to prove herself to get a promotion to work as a 3rd deck officer and eventually get a license.
Elizabeth is now working to empower women in the maritime industry. She started an online platform with the title ‘Against the Tide’. The platform highlights the experiences of a female seafarer. She is advocating for gender equality in accessing opportunities in the field.
Although in its infancy, I want to advocate for policies that favor both genders and allows for equal opportunities in access to opportunities in the industry.
She also has plans of mentoring young schoolgirls and encouraging them not to be scared of getting into the field.
I also intend to mentor young girls into believing in themselves and having the courage to get into the profession. I have been speaking to students at various schools about the importance of believing in themselves.