Network of Women in Marine Science

Inspiring Women in Ocean Science : Sware Semesi

With over 20 years of experience in research and management of natural resources for sustainable development, Dr. Immaculate Sware Semesi’s journey is one of inspiration.

Dr. Semesi is currently the Director General at the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and was previously managing Tanzania’s Marine Parks and Reserves; responsible for the governance of coastal and marine resources of Tanzania. Dr. Semesi was formerly a Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam, School of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries for more than 10 years. She was then nominated as a Member of Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania and served for 5 years. This position gave her exposure into the political realm, where her lobbying and negotiation skills, as well as formulation of policies, laws and national programmes, and national budget scrutiny played a significant role. Dr. Semesi’s range of skills also include managing different levels of projects, budgeting processes, monitoring & evaluation, and administration. Further, her previous engagements with World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) and Western Indian Ocean Marine Sciences Association (WIOMSA) gave her a platform that allowed her to put into action the governance of coastal and marine resources at a national and regional level.

Tell us, what led you to pursue a career in marine/ocean science?

I was inspired from an early age by my mother who was a prominent Professor in the field of marine sciences and a founding member of WIOMSA- Dr Adelaida Kleti Semesi. I had an opportunity to tag along during her field visits, and through that I was captured by the mystery of the ocean and what it can offer! Since then, my spirit has been tied to marine life!

As a marine/ocean professional, what three critical lessons have you learned? Share your insights and experience with others who aspire to become experts in this field.

  1. Everything is dynamic; go with the flow, be adaptive
  2. Be innovative and courageous in tackling setbacks and challenges and turn obstacles into opportunities
  3. Never make assumptions; always seek clarification and guidance, take time to learn and digest.

Sware on the far right introducing her former colleagues at the Marine Parks and Reserves Unit, Tanzania

In celebration of International Women’s Day theme “Invest in Women; accelerate progess”, what progress do you envision for women in the Western Indian Ocean region?

We as the Women in Marine Science (WiMs) need to actively get involved in addressing systemic barriers, promoting equal opportunities, and fostering a supportive environment where women can thrive and contribute fully to their communities and societies. This can be done by (i) recognising the role of women as stewards of natural resources and promoting their involvement in environmental conservation efforts, that can contribute to sustainable development in the region, (ii) supporting women-led initiatives in areas such as climate adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable agriculture that can have positive impacts on both communities and ecosystems, and (iii) providing access to technology that can empower women economically and socially, enabling them to access information, education, and opportunities online on matters related to coastal and marine resources management.