As the world marked the maiden edition of the International Day for Women in Maritime, shipping stakeholders in Nigeria have pushed for a barrier-free work environment for women and stressed the need for inclusion and training.
This move was championed by a former Director of Special Duties, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Hajia Lami Tumaka who decried gender imbalance in the sector despite the facts showing that women make a lot of difference in the sector.
Speaking at a programme organized by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIOTA) themed: “Training, Visibility, Recognition and Supporting a Barrier-Free Work Environment”, she beckoned on the older generation to give the upcoming women in maritime the needed support to grow and break the bias.
Lami Tumaka encouraged women in the sector to focus on self development, training and retraining to enable them show capacity to play at the highest level and get the requisite visibility they desire.
Her words: “The maritime industry is male dominated. Even so, there are many women in the industry who are outstanding performers but do not get the recognition they deserve. This year’s theme presupposes that women should be trained to attain proficiency, be given the visibility for the world to see that they are doing well and these efforts be crowned with appropriate recognition, even awards. But perhaps most importantly, the theme encourages everyone to work towards the realization of a barrier-free work environment, where there is no discrimination either on the basis of gender or race.
“This observance is a step in the right direction. It would show the rest of the world that it is not only men that ensure that food and basic supplies reach every corner of the world through the instrumentality of ships. But that women are also part of this critical chain. Using opportunities like this, we can further draw attention to the sacrifices of women in the maritime industry whilst creating awareness to girls that roles exist for them in the industry.”
She, however, stressed that training and retraining is critical for women to take up higher responsibilities in the industry as one would not simply be given roles by reason of their gender, but must prove to be competent, knowledgeable and skilled.
Also speaking at the virtual meeting, the Rivers State Coordinator of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Dr. Mercy Bello Abu, noted that women who are trained as professionals are assets to the country.
“If the voices of women have to be heard, what is the message? What’s the goal of that message and how does it impact the environment? These explain why the place of training and retraining can never be overemphasized. Women need visibility and visibility in this regard means to be seen and be heard. We live in a society where it is said that a woman should be seen and not heard, but that’s not in this 21st century,” she said.
Explaining how women can become visible and well-recognized in the industry, she said they need to be self aware; be authentic; acknowledge compliments; be smart in networking, be at their best and maximize their space.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General, Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Captain Sunday Umoren, advised women in the sector to place competence above any other criteria in a bid to distinguish themselves.
“It is great to celebrate and support women in the sector, and a lot of them have made giant strides over the years. However, nothing takes the place of training. Women must endeavour to train, as it would help them achieve more. Men should also accept that more women are coming into the sector, not to outshine or take over their places, but to complement them. It should be competence first before anything else,” Umoren said.
On his part, Professor Samuel Odewumi of the School of Transport and Logistics, Lagos State University (LASU) urged women with more experience in the sector to embrace the younger generation.
His words: “Women should mentor women. Women should support women, empower and provide the relevant guidance for them to have a strong foothold in the sector. It is also important to let people know who you are and what you do by making yourself visible, or it will be like winking in the dark with no one noticing”.
The session was moderated by the National Publicity Secretary, CIOTA, Mrs. Chizoba Anyika.