That the ocean is in crisis is nothing new. I grew up by the sea and have spent much of my adult life interacting with the ocean and exploring our relationship with it.

Over the years I have observed some pretty shocking changes, including disappearing fish, habitat destruction and bleaching corals, and the degradation of marine life along the beach I call home. I decided a long time ago that my quest was to communicate the plight of our ocean and its importance for our very survival on this planet. Leaving the corporate world behind I joined established non-profits, led expeditions at sea and campaigned to stop some of the most egregious practices.

Over the past two decades, as I travelled to coastal communities the world over, what has struck me is the inherent role that women play in safeguarding the ocean. Be it as scientists, reporters, divers, policy-makers, community members, or as one of the many women that work in fisheries, women are doing incredible work everywhere to protect the ocean from the onslaught of climate change, overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution, and to restore ocean health.

Unfortunately, as with many sectors, the work women do often goes unnoticed and women are not heard nor given the space to contribute in their own way to the dialogue around ocean management or conservation. 

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This is a big missed opportunity. If we want everyone to care about the ocean then we need to show the diversity of people devoting themselves to the cause, so that we can appeal to as many people as possible. For this reason I set up a new initiative called Women4Oceans, which is about connecting, supporting and amplifying the actions of women around the world who work for a healthy ocean.

Women4Oceans is not about excluding men or about being fair to women for the sake of equality alone. Rather, it is about harnessing our full potential as a species. Women bring unique perspectives to the table and it is time that we shape our future just as much as men do. Over the years I have observed that in most settings where the ocean is discussed, be it at the community or international level, the discourse is still dominated by men. When this happens I notice that even outside that immediate circle of influence men also dominate the conversation. This is not because women have nothing to say, or because men never allow women to speak, but because the dynamic is shaped by the historically dominant demographic. Creative contribution can easily get lost simply because the approach is different or because to be noticed requires courage, and that moment of hesitation means the opportunity is missed. 

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I want to change that. Women4Oceans is about creating the space for women to be heard. My vision is to build a community of women across geographies, issue areas, cultures and ethnicities. I want people everywhere to be able to find ocean heroes they can relate to. Through networking, lifting each other up, building confidence, and ultimately empowering women, we can inspire a global movement of ocean heroes to come into action.

There is no single pathway to reversing the crisis facing our ocean. It requires creativity, innovation and, most importantly, all of us. We need to start listening to the many voices that make up our collective civilization. It is indeed by embracing our diversity that we can truly bring about change. Join the movement at women4oceans.org.


- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action. 

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