By Kenneth Jukpor
As part of efforts to guarantee increased participation of women in the maritime sector and curb the incidents of discrimination, the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Commodore Duja Effedua (Rtd) has called for jail-term punishments for operators who discriminate or abuse women onboard ships in Nigeria.
The Rector who was speaking on the sideline of the 2019 Day Of The Seafarers organized by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in Lagos on Tuesday, also urged ship-owners to employ more females in their workforce in line with the theme of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2019 Day Of The Seafarers which states “Onboard with gender equality”.
According to the Retired Naval Commodore, “Anybody that believes that men are still intellectually superior to their female counterparts is still living in the past. We have seen female pilots, Generals, Admirals, Air Vice Marshals. We have seen female Captains commanding very large merchant ships. These should be role models to the younger females that we have now.
“I am onboard with gender equality. I have always encouraged it at the Academy. In our last admission, 29 female cadets applied for admission, and we took 28 out of the 29 that applied. The only one that was not taken was down to her medical condition. In the process of admission, we did not lower the bar just to get them in. The girls were academically sound. They were not inferior to their male counterparts..
“They have been there for about eight months now and they are doing quite fine. I will advise ship-owners to consider more women in the new design of ships they are acquiring. Even old ships could be refleeted to accommodate for more females accommodation onboard.
“The issue of sexual harassment against female workers onboard vessels should attract jail-terms. I don’t think it’s fair or right to abuse women in whatever form. Many of us have wives and children who are girls.
“In this regard, I think the Nigerian Navy ought to be commended because the Navy has been at the forefront of campaign against abuse of women onboard vessels.
“We are the first organization (Nigerian Navy) in Nigeria to have introduced females onboard. I use the word “We” because I am still part of the Navy. Females working onboard Naval vessels have been a success story thus far. There has not been any record of abuse or harassment against females while working onboard Naval vessels.
“NIMASA too should be commended for it’s efforts in promoting gender equality amongst the nation’s seafarers.”
On the regimental nature of the Academy which compels female cadets to shave their head, the MAN Rector assured that the policy would be softened to a reasonable extent in days ahead.
“People have complained about the regimental nature of the Academy where our girls shave their head completely. The female operators here today complained that it is dehumanizing, and I have assured them that we will look at the policy to see the best that we can do.
“We must not forget that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria is a regimented institution. That is why we have the regiment of about 60 men onboard unlike other Academies. We might just try to balance it later, and make it a low cut style instead of the skin cut that the Academy currently practices,” Commodore Duja Effedua added.