Fatouma Ali Ahmed, from Djibouti, works as the Head of Pilotage Department and is the first female marine pilot in the Port of Djibouti.
Ali, a mother of 3-year-old twins joined the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt in 2006.
She was the first lady to join the maritime academy at that time with 14 men.
Ali who shared her story said, “It was an honour and a big responsibility. I had to work twice as hard as the male students,” she said.
“I had to study English for six months preceding my maritime career, and successfully graduated my program in 2012. I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Nautical Science and Certificate of Competency and sailed as a second officer. I then joined the Marine Pilot Training Program in the Port of Djibouti”.
She said that as an Arabic female in the industry, one of the biggest challenges she had was finding a company with which to complete her sea time, while the men in the class were already at sea completing their sea time with Ethiopian shipping companies.
“I spent one and a half years at home waiting for a company that would accept me. I was disappointed, and I almost lost hope. My family and my friends even encouraged me to change fields, but I kept my faith and finally, the Port Authority found P and O Maritime in Australia, a company willing to take me aboard to complete my sea time.
“As Djibouti was colonized by French, Djiboutian are open-minded, and currently, Djiboutian girls are educated. The support of my open-minded parents made it easier for me to pursue my dreams in the maritime industry, even though it was a new concept at the time. I am also lucky to be married to someone who is in the maritime industry, working as a marine engineer, who understands my line of work and the passion I have for my job. I am so grateful for his helpfulness and support.
“I am happy and excited to have been the first woman to break the barrier of being a pilot in the Port of Djibouti. There will always be challenges, and I will be happy to see women in Djibouti following suit,” Ali said.