International Women’s Day – March 8 |02 March 2021
‘Nothing can be achieved if you just sit and wait’
‘Being a woman in a male-dominated field has its perks but to thrive against all odds and show the world that WE as women and girls can make a difference just as well, is simply ecstatic!’
To commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy celebrates women working in the fisheries and maritime sector. In today’s issue, we introduce you to a very enthusiastic young lady whose story will surely inspire a lot of girls and women who has a passion for science. Meet Kettyna Gabriel, a fisheries scientist at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA).
Kettyna has gone above and beyond for her career and has made some incredible sacrifices for her achievements. Let us find out her secret in being a wife, a mother and a career woman working in a male-dominated sector.
Question: Tell the readers about yourself
Kettyna: ‘Hi all! My name is Kettyna Gabriel. I have been an employee of the Seychelles Fishing Authority for the past 11 years. I started as a research technician and upon completing university I was promoted to fisheries scientist until present. I have always been an active and devoted member of the research team. I can describe myself as a highly motivated, fun but sometimes loud individual who is passionate about the blue diamond which is our ocean and all that it entails.
Question: What is your academic and professional background?
Kettyna: I followed my secondary education at Beau Vallon School and completed S5 in 2006. Our school moto ‘Aiming for the best’ surely made an impact back then and still is today. Later, I was accepted to continue my studies at the Seychelles Maritime Training Centre (MTC). Following a two-year course in Advance Certificate in Fisheries Science I graduated as the best overall performer and was awarded the President’s Cup in 2009. Then I decided to throw my books aside and experience life. In 2016, I enrolled at Bangor University for a BSc degree in Marine Biology and Zoology which was fully sponsored by the SFA. In 2019, I graduated with 1st class Honours and I was also nominated for the Challenger Society Marine Science Award. This is a prestigious award whereby the top dissertation from various students across the United Kingdom (UK) are judged on merit. Do allow me to take this time to express my sincere thanks to all my teachers, family members, and friends who in one way or another contributed to my studies.
Question: What are your duties on a typical working day?
Kettyna: As a fisheries scientist, I am responsible for undertaking stock assessment and study population dynamics using fisheries dependent and independent data to produce robust advice to resource managers regarding the fisheries stock and environmental factors influencing fishing activities. To deliver on this, my duties consist of multiple components that require me to design, implement, coordinate, and supervise field-based surveys to collect biological, ecological and oceanographic data for the commercially important fish species. Technical reports, scientific papers, posters, workshops or flyers are then produced to disseminate research findings on time, and this involves a lot of sleepless nights. To be honest, a typical day is merely not enough to complete all the duties I have. To stay on top of project deadlines, I plan out my duties daily and shift priorities around just not to get bored with office work because I prefer being in the field. Nevertheless, I love my job!
Question: What made you choose a career in the fisheries sector?
Kettyna: My childhood was difficult with many tribulations and escaping through environmental documentaries kept my mind lucid. It was then that I discovered how the marine ecosystem is fascinating on so many levels and my passion was ignited. The need to explore often leads me on different quests along the beaches, among the rocks or snorkelling shallow waters just to please my curiosity. I chose a career in the marine sector just because I wanted to understand the different dynamics this unique ecosystem holds. And Yes! Given the constant growing threats and escalating at a rapid rate ‘quite alarming’, I believe that people need to be more mindful of our marine resources and to practice sustainability. This is where I fit in!! finding better solutions on how to effectively manage our fisheries resources ensuring our fishery sector remains sustainable in the long run.
Question: What are the challenges you have faced and are currently facing as a woman in your line of work?
Kettyna: We face challenges every day but how you positively overcome them is another story. Sometimes the biggest challenge is ourselves, to coexist with different personalities and headstrong individuals which at times feels like the ‘clash of the titans’. These challenges teach us how to compromise with a common goal of getting the job done. As a team, we surely have encountered limitless challenges but also significant achievements.
Question: Do you believe there is equality of opportunity for all Seychellois women in the sector that you are working in?
Kettyna: I believe that equal opportunities between man and woman exist but there is a tendency that the male counterparts are more favoured for some opportunities. The triage pyramid is still apparent, and this will not be dismissed anytime soon, and the struggles remain. Indeed, as a woman, we have our limitations, but the man also has theirs. I have not experienced gender inequality personally, however it is known that unequal opportunities exist between foreigners and Seychellois whereby on multiple occasions foreign nationals are more valued and given unique opportunities than our highly trained Seychelloise in my line of work.
Question: This year’s theme for Women’s Day is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world’. What are your views on this theme?
Kettyna: Women should have equal opportunities and a future regardless of Covid-19. It is astonishing to see how disproportionate the number of men over women in leadership roles in either non-profit organisations, military, government, etc… It is a sign of concerns about what may be causing such disparity. Nevertheless, the women in leadership roles have demonstrated capable skills, knowledge, compassion, brought different perspectives and experiences to successfully lead in Covid-19 and it has always been the case before. Just to name a few, look at countries such as Ethiopia or Slovakia where women as government heads have effectively controlled the Covid pandemic due to their rapid national response. Let us not forget women who is not in any leadership roles but do make irreplaceable contributions in many other sectors in Seychelles.
Question: What are the sacrifices, both personal and professional, you had to make to be where you are today?
Kettyna: Throughout the year we carry out research surveys at sea and this requires me to be absent from home regularly. The time spent at sea depends on the research trips (8-10 trips per year) and duration which could be around two to three weeks or even a month if we have back-to-back research trips. Being away from home was easy at first. However, this became harder when my daughter keeps wishing for me to stay home and to be safe. Or switching my home comfort to a sometimes rough living condition (boat swaying vigorously side by side in bad weather) has brought many sleepless nights. Or the disappointment on my family and best friends’ faces when they have planned something and I cannot be present. I swear they all may think I’m neglecting them but NO it is simply that my work is quite different from 8-4 hours of office work.
However, the biggest sacrifice I have encountered by far is when I had to leave my daughter behind to pursue higher education. Missing important occasions such as birthdays, creche graduation, wearing her first big school uniform or comfort her after getting a boo-boo. It was not easy, and I found myself shedding a tear or two throughout my three years of separation. I used this as my strength and devoted my all to my studies to ensure this sacrifice was worth it in order to provide her with a better future. To achieve greatness, one must be ready to make scarifies to enjoy the benefits later.
Question: What message do you have for all the girls and women out there on the occasion of Women’s Day?
Kettyna: My message to all girls and women across our nation and all over the globe, that you may encounter many difficulties in life, or be misunderstood but learn from it and thrive through it all. Don’t be ashamed to fail because failing is the best teacher one can have and throwing the towel when you’re a dream chaser is not an option. I’m a living embodiment of a dream chaser. I once said I wanted to be a marine biologist and today, I am a fisheries scientist. It is easy to say I want this but how many have seized the opportunity and run towards it. Do not get discouraged when criticisms get your way instead use it as a positive gateway to build upon. Push yourself, be tenacious, devoted and determined because nothing can be achieved if you just sit and wait.
The accompanying photos show Kettyna in action.