Ilham Kendi Mohammed, an Omani resident of Kenyan origins, has chosen the sea to fulfill her dreams of becoming one of the leading maritime women in the world. A student at the International Maritime College of Oman IMCO, Ilham tells Robban Assafina about her early journey and approach in this field, overcoming many challenges of longstanding gender barriers.

Why did you choose this program?
I always knew that I wanted to do something different while I was growing up. But the only challenge was that the careers that I wanted to pursue were all male dominated fields. It was quite a challenge always thinking that maybe because of my gender I wouldn’t be able to get what I always wanted. 

It was then, at an age where you get to understand stuff, where I got to know what my mom really did. She has been in the maritime field for a while and I always looked up to her the most. To me it was a change of view from everything I knew and believed back then, because if she did it then I would probably do it too. 

I finally made a decision it was what I wanted and went for it (always loved everything about the sea and ocean). Seeing other women in maritime was also inspirational to me. I look up to Capt. Kate McCue of Celebrity Beyond and First Officer Elizabeth Marami and their unique stories, and being able to break longstanding gender barriers in this field was something great for me to admire. The Sea has great stories and I wanted to be one of them. 

I always wanted to travel around the world too. Maritime is the world of today and tomorrow, and I chose to be the world of tomorrow if not today. 

To me, IMCO is an institution that offers more than I actually know, not only academic wise. It is a place that enables one to grow critically, mentally and education wise as well. For me I actually believe that anyone who is a product of IMCO should bring change or be a person that would want to tell his/her stories to young people, because it is more than just an ordinary institution. “Not everyone can be famous but everyone can be great, because greatness is determined by service”. To me IMCO is great. 

What can you tell us about expenses and safety measures in Oman? What about the communication prior to arriving to Oman?
Before I came to Oman, I knew nothing about the country. I only knew about the ports here (maritime wise) I would say it is one of the greatest place to be since everyone is quite friendly and welcoming and it makes you feel as if you’ve been here for a while even if it’s your first week. It’s a place you’d want to experience. 

It’s also at an affordable range but a bit higher because of the currency difference between Oman and Kenya, which is something that none of us can control.

Regarding safety, I would describe it as one of the safest places I’ve ever been to, it is not something that I had to be worried about.

Communication prior to coming to Oman was excellent since they account to literally everything. I had continuous communication before I left Kenya till the time I arrived in Oman, and even afterwards. So I would describe it as something that you wouldn’t have to worry about since there is time for communication in case anything happened. 

How do you look up to women’s role in the maritime sector?
The role of women in the maritime sector is not different than men's role. From operations to management to research and innovation; everything else is similar.

What are your future anticipations as a maritime student?
I want to be the change that I want to see in the world. I hope that having women working in the maritime sector would not be on the headlines in the near future, and that everyone would embrace it like any other job. I also hope that the number of women would increase yearly till we get to a point where we lose count. 

Robban Assafina Magazine, Issue 80, Jul/ Aug. 2022, Maritime News - shipping


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Issue 80 of Robban Assafina

(July/ Aug. 2022)


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