As the world celebrated the maiden edition of the International Day for Women in Maritime yesterday, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria and Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigeria led industry stakeholders to correct the odds against women in the sector.
The conference jointly organized by WISTA Nigeria and WIMA Nigeria themed; “Maritime Security Issues and Blue Economy,” provided an ideal platform to address gender sensitive issues in maritime.
Speaking with The News Diet at the event, a former Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa described the occasion as very significant because women around the world have played crucial roles in maritime but haven’t been recognized.
Her words: “IMO’s decision to dedicate a day to celebrate women in maritime gladdens my heart. Women have been making reasonable progress, even though we are expecting them to do more as we try to break the bias. The opportunities for women in this maritime sector are immense from the field of fisheries to renewable energy, seafaring to capacity building, among others but we have to break the bias.”
Noting that less than 2 percent of seafarers around the world are women, Ezenwa opined that more advocacy will be required to correct this imbalance and she underscored the need for more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the maritime sector to enhance advocacy.
“MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative is trying to raise more awareness and sensitization but I think we should do more. The Ministry of Education through Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) and Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron should be able to take in more women and give them opportunities to learn maritime. There should also be efforts to catch them young via secondary schools and have a gender policy embedded in the National Transport policy that would encourage more women to embrace maritime. There’s a lot to do in order to get more women onboard in seafaring and across various aspects of maritime,” she said.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani said she was delighted and proud of WISTA Nigeria and WIMA-Nigeria for the rich deliberations at the summit.
While celebrating the victory the nation has accomplished in maritime security, she emphasized the need to collaborate to achieve victories in maritime safety and other aspects of the maritime industry.
“It would take a collaborative effort to achieve this but it’s attainable. Another issue is capacity building, but I have already observed that WISTA and WIMA are doing a lot in this regard. Women in maritime should educate themselves and build themselves in order to be more successful in their respective fields,” she said.
She, however, noted that twenty-six women under the Ministry of Transportation joined her in the Transport Ministry’s conference room to participate in the event virtually.
On her part, a former Continental President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere (SAN) said the International Maritime Organization (IMO) declaration of May 18th maritime women’s day, is aimed at getting women to pick interest in maritime and correcting the erroneous belief that maritime is meant for the menfolk.
Speaking on reports of female seafarers subjected bullying and harassment, Anishere noted that the problem is dwindling following wide publicity and deliberations on the issue globally and by WISTA and WIMA in Nigeria.
“I’m sure that the reports about harassment of female seafarers has dwindled because we have more women encouraged to go into seafaring and the men are beginning to see women as partners as opposed to bullying, assault and other activities that made women detest seafaring in the past. As we go forward, we expect to reach a level where there will be zero incidents or reports of bullying female seafarers,” Anishere said.
On her part, the President of WISTA-Nigeria identified access to fund as a major challenge confronting women in maritime, noting that the impact of Nigerian women in maritime will continue to be peripheral until more women own major assets and investments in the sector.
“Maritime and shipping investments require huge capital and in Africa, until recently, women weren’t encouraged to own properties and have assets. Women need to own vessels and we are looking forward to the day where members of WISTA, WIMA or other associations could have a consortium of women to buy vessels, barges, passenger boats or local crusie boats,” she said.
Ezeoke posited that Nigerian financial institutions should structure loans with low interests for women interested in maritime businesses such as ship acquisition, fishing trawlers, ferries, ship brokerage, among others.
Meanwhile, the President of WIMA-Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy advised Nigerian women not be be deterred by the high cost of maritime trainings, but find out the most relevant training for their respective fields and go for them.
“This is the first time WIMA and WISTA are coming together for a programme and you can see that it was successful. It means that women groups are making progress and this shows that we are ready to collaborate. This is a stepping stone to greater accomplishments for women in the maritime industry. Women in this sector can expect this collaboration to spring up good fruits in the area of training, empowerment, appointments, among others,” she said.