Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou (Cyprus) will receive the first IMO Gender Equality Award for work with WISTA International.

Ms. Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou (Cyprus), former President of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association #WISTAInternational, has been selected as the recipient of the first-ever #IMO Gender Equality Award.   

The IMO Council, at its 130th session (C 130, 21-24 November), endorsed the decision of the Assessment Panel, which decided to recommend Ms. Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou as the recipient of the first IMO Gender Equality Award, due to the pivotal and leading role she played in advancing gender equality and empowering women throughout her tenure as President of WISTA International. Ms. Panayiotou Theodosiou was nominated by Cyprus. 

Ms. Panayiotou Theodosiou's actions brought significant attention to the Association's mission and shed light on the challenges faced by women in the maritime industry, raising awareness among industry stakeholders, as well as international policy and decision makers, while also amplifying the voices of women and highlighting their important contributions to the maritime industry. 


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Ms. Panayiotou Theodosiou was instrumental in gaining consultative status for WISTA International at IMO. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between both Organizations translated into multiple successful initiatives, such as the Women in Maritime Survey 2021, aimed at examining the representation and distributions of women working in the maritime sector; and the Maritime Speakers Bureau, a platform of female experts in a variety of maritime fields which seeks to amplify the voices of women in the maritime industry by ensuring that conferences and events feature inclusive panels with a range of perspectives. 

Letters of Commendation
The Council decided to award Letters of Commendation to the following nominees, in order to highlight those with dedication and devotion to the empowerment of women through best practices and initiatives in a variety of maritime sectors and across regions of the globe: 

  • Mr. Mikael Skov of Denmark, due to his initiatives as CEO of Hafnia, including a working group onshore to further diversity ambitions among seafaring staff members; the Women In Maritime Lab, a cross industry initiative aimed at identifying and developing innovative ideas that worked to address diversity challenges in maritime; and the provision of sponsorships to grow its pool of female ratings in India.  
  • Ms. Sanjam Sahi Gupta of India, for her contributions to the founding of WISTA national chapters in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Georgia and Malaysia; her roles in Diversity Committees within WISTA International and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); and her work at the helm of Maritime SheEO, which works with organizations to create a level playing field for women to raise to leadership positions.  
  • Commodore Amit Srivastava of India, for his pivotal role in converting the Indian Navy into a gender-neutral service where women are empowered and it is ensured that they can realize their true potential without any bias or limitations. Some initiatives were ensuring facilities accommodating women in larger numbers, the approval for the recruitment of women to join the Indian Navy as sailors, and the opening of officer training institutions to women. 
  • Ms. Eunjung Heo of the Republic of Korea, for the role she played in the development of safety regulations for LPG-fueled ships, serving as a role model for many female seafarers; and for her mentoring of numerous aspiring female juniors in their exploration of career paths within the engineering field, as well as empowering the next generation of female maritime professionals. 
  • Ms. Camille Dyan A. Simbulan of the Philippines, for her work as the Head of Communications and Special Projects for Women and Youth of the Associated Marine Officers' and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), where she pushed for the inclusion of gender equality in the union's agenda, emphasizing the need to create a platform for women seafarers. She also spearheaded projects such as Gender Sensitivity Training (GST) for women, men  and empowerment workshops for women seafarers. 


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IMO Gender Equality Award
The IMO Gender Equality Award has been established to recognize to those individuals, irrespective of their gender, who, either in their personal capacity or as representatives of their respective institutions, have made significant contributions to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women in the maritime sector. The presentation of the award will be made during the Organization's celebrations of the International Day for Women in Maritime, in May 2024. 

Nominations are considered by an Assessment Panel, comprised of representatives of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International); the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF); the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); two IMO Member States who are Members of the IMOGender Network; and the Chair of the Legal Committee. 

Nominations for the Award may be made by Member States and observer organizations, specialized agencies, programmes and funds of the United Nations system; intergovernmental organizations with which IMO has established cooperative agreements or arrangements; and non-governmental international organizations in consultative status with IMO. 

Ms. Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou
Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou is joint CEO of Tototheo Maritime, a global service provider specialising in innovative, efficient, and functional solutions in the fields of digitalization, maritime satellite communications, automation, and navigation systems. 

She was President of Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International) from 2017 to 2022. WISTA International is an organization comprised of 59 National WISTA Associations. She is the President of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus and Vice President of the Natural Gas Infrastructure Company (Cyprus). She is also a board member in various organisations, including the Cyprus Shipping Chamber and the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation. She is a Member to the General committee of the Association of SA and Limited Companies in Greece and Head of its Shipping Sector committee. 

She holds degrees from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the Copenhagen Business School, and the University of Oxford.

Source: IMO


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(Nov./ Dec. 2023)


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