The Ocean Women initiative in the Maldives is led by Manta Trust and Salted Ventures Swimmers and aims to empower women and girls through training a network of local swimming and snorkeling instructors.
Salted Ventures Swimmers is a Malé-based swimming school founded by Aminath Zoona (Zuna).
Manta Trust is a UK-based nonprofit organization established in 2011 to promote ocean conservation and sustainable management of manta rays, their relatives, and their habitats.
The founding project of Manta Trust, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) was launched in 2005, as the Maldives is home to the largest known population of manta rays in the world, making it an ideal location for Manta Trust's conservation efforts.
However, despite the Maldives being surrounded by the ocean and having incredible marine geography, most people rarely venture into the deep.
Since 2015, The Manta Trust Marine Education Programme, "Moodhu Madharusaa", which means "Ocean School" in English, has taught hundreds of children and women to swim and snorkel for the first time, giving them the chance to witness the magnificent reefs of the Maldives.
Under the Manta Trust’s international Ocean Women initiative established in 2022, project leaders for the Maldives Ocean Women initiative, Flossy Barraud (Manta Trust) and Zuna (Salted Ventures Swimmers), set out to plan a female-focused swim instructor training program to empower women and girls. The goal was to allow them to venture into the ocean and become passionate conservation advocates working towards change in their communities.
The project leaders are currently seeking local collaboration and support for this initiative.
The Ocean Women's pilot programme 2023 involves training Maldivians to become swim and snorkel instructors by giving them the opportunity to put their skills into practice by training future swimmers and snorkelers in their local communities.
The programme aims to foster a love for the ocean and marine ecology and protect the local environment. The reception from local communities was overwhelmingly positive, with all 13 islands that were consulted for the programme wanting swimming instructors trained in their local area.
While the project will initially train 10 individuals, including at least 5 women, Ocean Women hopes to expand training to allow more women from local communities to learn about and thrive in the ocean that surrounds them.
For many women, this initiative will be a push towards making a positive difference in their lives and the community by passing down skills learned through the programme to the rest of the community.
Ocean Women serves as a testament to the power of education and empowerment in creating positive change in local communities and the environment. It is a reminder that women have a vital role to play in protecting our planet's precious natural resources.