Together they started the campaign against harassment and victimisation at sea that has affected the whole industry. In October they were awarded the SAN work environment prize for all the work they have done in this area.
all began on 27 November 2017 when a ship’s cook, Frida Wigur, started the maritime MeToo movement called #lättaankar (see SAN News no. 1-2018). On the same day, Master Linda Svenson, serving as chief mate on icebreakers, joined the group. Cajsa Jersler Fransson, a master who currently works at the Maritime Administration, was invited to the group one day later. During the year that has passed, these three women have shared their own experiences of offensive behaviour and domination techniques as well as supporting others in shipping that have experienced similar things. They have produced a film in which women describe all types of offensive behaviour, from verbal abuse to outright assault, which has attracted a lot of attention. They have lectured in many different contexts, participated in conferences and made a number of interviews to try to bring about a change in attitudes.
“I am so totally sick of domination techniques and insults that I could vomit,” says Linda Svenson. “But I would also like to emphasise that we are not doing this because we have anything against men. We are doing it because we want everyone on board to have a better atmosphere at work and put an end to harassment.”
The problem continues
The SAN prize-winners were not the first to draw attention to the problems of abuse and harassment in the shipping industry. Unlike previously, though, they have managed to keep the issue alive and found ways of continuing their movement.
“I think it is because we work on a broad front and have involved so many people,” says Cajsa Jersler Fransson. As well as everything that is done here in Sweden, these questions are also taken up in WISTA (Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association), which has representatives everywhere in the shipping industry and operates internationally.
All three know the other victims and have personal experience of harassment and abuse. On some occasions it was very threatening, such as when a male crewmember crept into his female colleague’s cabin at night. More often it has been a case of offensive comments, domination techniques and verbal attacks.
“You might think that you have a lot of funny banter at work,” said Frida Wigur in her speech when she received the SAN prize. “But it’s so easy that the jokes carry on and then go over the limit, when they are no longer funny. And you know exactly when that happens – you can feel it physically.”
Over the past year a large number of people and organisations have joined the campaign for change. A joint-party working group has been organised as well as a steering group of shipping companies, authorities, organisations and maritime trade unions. The need for action is still very much there. When the members of the Facebook group #lättaankar were recently asked if anything had changed on their ships, the answers were disappointing.
“We’ve had a lot of reports where the women say the same thing: that the colleagues who used to be good are still good, and those who were bad have got worse. Men shout ”MeToo” at them and say it would be better if there were no women at all on board, so they couldn’t be falsely accused. But it is not only bad news. We also hear about ships where the atmosphere has improved and shipping companies that take the problem seriously,” says Linda Svenson.
The SAN prize-winners now want to persuade more shipping companies to join the movement and not just let it be handled by the trade association, the Swedish Shipowners’ Association. They also want to reach out to the crews on the ships. “A socially unhealthy and offensive work environment is about much more than well-being – it’s also a safety issue,” says Carla Jersler Fransson.
“Those who feel afraid and insecure may not dare to question a wrong decision or take their own initiatives, even if they should. Victims also have a higher risk of suicide.”
They plan to share the prize of SEK 15,000 with members of the Facebook group #lättaankar in some way, possibly through internet lectures or a one-day seminar.
The SAN prize: the jury’s reasons
This year’s SAN prize goes to three people who, with great courage and strength, created the conditions for positive change throughout the shipping industry. In the autumn of 2017 the world was shaken by accounts of sexual harassment through the MeToo movement. The shipping industry remained silent for a long time, but thanks to these three nominees more than 1000 accounts from the industry have come to light. They highlighted the problem in a very effective way, and their documentation has led to a long-term, overarching approach with the aim of zero tolerance of sexual harassment or offensive behaviour in the shipping industry. Thanks to these nominees, the shipping industry has jointly planned its course toward a bright future with a better work environment, equality and inclusion – for all people in maritime transport.