…puncturing the gender bias in seafaring globally
Amid calls for gender parity in the global shipping industry with women participation at just 2 percent, there are concerns that the existing nomenclature massively discriminates against women’s participation in the sector.
Kenya’s Special Envoy for Maritime and Blue Economy, Amb Nancy Karigithu made this remark at the weekend at the Women in Maritime conference organized by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) in commemoration of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Day for Women in Maritme, on Friday.
Her words: “There is a need to change some terms in the shipping industry. The term seaman is still widely used to describe anyone working at sea. The term manning agents also give the impression that the industry is specifically for the men.”
“The nomenclature hasn’t really been pushed into oblivion: almost everyone still refers to the seafarer’s identification as crewmen, seamen, man overboard.”
Nancy, who is also the Advisor on Blue Economy in the Executive Office of the President of Kenya, noted that like several other industries, technology has changed the requirements of shipping with more emphasis on I.T skills and brain power more than physical strength, adding that women have proven to be well endowed in the area of intellect.
“Women are better managers of resources, women display more empathy and understanding needed for successful leadership in work environs. Women represent almost half of the world’s population, so the world can’t claim to be making any significant growth across any field of endeavour with one half of it left behind.”
She called for strategic catch-them-young initiatives to build interest in maritime for young girls in primary and secondary schools, adding that the place of hard work can’t be dismissed as she maximizes every opportunity to engage young ladies in Kenya to emphasize the importance of hard work.
Nancy, who is contesting for the post of Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) later this year, expressed optimism that she would attend the next NCS event in Nigeria in the capacity as Secretary General of IMO.
Also speaking, the President of Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria (FESAN), Koni Duniya revealed that female Nigerian seafarers as well as their male counterparts have been deprived global opportunities because the Nigerian government hasn’t prioritized diplomatic relations with shipping giants.
She opined that if the Nigerian government becomes more strategic it will be able to create a pathway for the nation’s seafarers to have access to show their competence on the global stage.
According to Duniya, “some shipping companies have told their manning agents that they prefer male seafarers with vessels constructed without any considerations for females. We have had cases where our female seafarers have been rejected on the basis of perceived inferior certificates. At other times, the big shipping companies tell us that they aren’t taking Nigerian certified seafarers and we inform them that we have some ladies who trained abroad but they still decline”
On her part, the President of African Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy expressed regret at the marginalization of Nigerian seafarers in the global shipping domain.
According to her, as a practicing manning agent, she has witnessed some of the setbacks especially for females and also made personal efforts to secure opportunities for women.
While describing the recent amalgamation of Nigerian women groups in maritime as a step in the right direction, she further emphasized partnerships and collaborations with government and private sector operators in a bid to address the poor participation of women in shipping.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of African Shipowners Association, Ms. Funmi Folorunso encouraged the maritime groups in country to highlight the industry’s enormous potentials and strategize to attain these benefits with the new presidential administration.
She recalled a maritime summit in Kenya years ago where Amb. Nancy delivered a 5-minute presentation and the then Kenyan President demanded a copy of the presentation and later drafted Nancy into an executive committee to realize the maritime projections.
Folorunso advised the NCS to lead an advocacy agenda for the realization of the massive shipping potentials in the country with the plight of seafarers and possible solutions captured in a holistic shipping agenda.
The Vice President of NCS, Ify Akerele, also expressed commitment to work with all stakeholders in getting the political class to buy into the maritime sector as top priority for economic growth.
On her part, the President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke observed that the ordeals and challenges in the shipping sector have been documented over the years.
Ezeoke, who served at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and retired as a General Manager, posited that a more strategic plan will be required to convert the ideas from talkshows into a better shipping sector for the nation.
In her closing remarks, the Director General of NCS, Mrs. Vivian Chimezie-Azubuike assured that robust advocacy will be championed by the Chamber in partnership with the various shipping groups and stakeholders even as she promised that a communique will be produced and disseminated.