June 21 – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Proving to be the exception, Alisa Awi Komainde has broken away from years of tradition, in the hopes of one day fulfilling her dreams and becoming a Ship Captain.
The only female to be accepted into the Marine Cadet program sponsored by TotalEnergies EP PNG (TEP PNG) in 2019, she graduated from the Port Moresby Maritime Training College after two years and has been working her way up to achieving her dreams.
Now serving as a member of the General Purpose crew for her On the Job training with TWL Logistics, she is the only woman amongst a predominant male crew of 107.
“My daily activities range from cleaning the rust on the side of the ship; assist the Chief officers in transporting heavy loads. If there’s no work up on deck, I can be called down below to help the chief engineers to pumping the waste fuel,” she states.
Born in Wabo village, Gulf Province in 1998, the second of 9 nine children to a strong single mother, she sees her opportunities as a God send, claiming that it is by the grace of God that she has been able to do what she has always dreamt of doing.
She recalls crossing the Purari River every morning as a child to get to school and on two occasions, having her canoe capsize but it was because she knew how to survive in those situations that fostered her dream to operate a ship, being a beacon of safety for those within her community.
“My custom is such where, a girl will not leave her mother’s side (for another place/country. You must be under your parents’ care until you yourself, become a wife and mother,” she explained.
She claims that as the reason why girls within her community are discouraged from going to school; because there is a misconception that if they do, they are likely to misbehave.
“Even though my father left us (passed away) when I was a small girl, I knew that I shouldn’t leave my mother behind, but I was thinking of how the world was developing and that was what motivated me to leave my village,” she said.
Alisa was fortunate to have had a family friend in Chimbu, who looked after her and sponsored her schooling from Grade four through to grade 10.
Towards the end of 2018, she returned to Wabo after being unsuccessful in securing a grade 11 spot and heard about the Marine Cadet programme from a TEP PNG Community Liaison officer who had been raising awareness.
She submitted her application, not expecting anything of it but was pleasantly surprised when she found out she had been accepted.
“Somehow my application got through, so I went through the process of medical checks and in 2019, I started classes. From 2021 to 2022, I’ve been fulfilling my job training requirement,” she said.
So far, her job training has taken her on travels throughout Daru (Western province), Popondetta (Oro Province) and the occasional travel throughout Port Moresby.
With the support of sponsors, she hopes to one day, raise to the ranks of Captain, as she works closely with the Captain of her crew, in order to learn as much as she can from him.
When asked what advice she would give to children back in her home community, she encourages them to go to school and states that receiving an education is important.
“I advise my two small sisters to be more open minded and accepting to the world. There’s more to life than this (village life). I tell them, you don’t need to follow our parents’ customs for the rest of your life,” she stated.