IWD 2022: Nigerian Women Explore Strategies To Curb Bias

By Kenneth Jukpor

IWD 2022: Nigerian Women Explore Strategies To Curb Bias

Every year, March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD). The goal is to create a gender-equal world. It is about celebrating a woman’s success and raising awareness against bias. The 2022 hashtag is #BreakTheBias and last week, several women groups and amazons across various sectors held worthwhile seminars, talkshows and road-walks to celebrate IWD.

The essence of the celebration was aptly captured in an opening statement by the President of African Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy. She said: “A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. You are a woman because you are strong enough, bold, and courageous. Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”

Macfoy was speaking during the summit organized by WIMA-Nigeria in Lagos to celebrate the IWD 2022 on Tuesday, last week.

Similarly, MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative also hosted a road-walk and seminar in Festac, Lagos where women shared insights on how to grow women businesses, support one another and participate actively in leadership roles in governance and other endeavours.

Our correspondent also captured the remarkable story of an exemplary Maritime Engineer who broke the bias to become a shining light for young Nigerian women in the shipping sector.

MMS Plus newspaper has focused on the maritime sector with a view to capture the stories of amazons who have broken the bias in their respective fields, even as the roles of women in politics, career development, leadership and business enterprise are also explored.

Speaking at the WIMA-Nigeria summit, the President, Mrs. Macfoy stressed that irrespective of the problems in the society, women should resolve to be part of the solutions.

“Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you. Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face and walk tall, with humility and respect because a woman is an embodiment of love, respect and care. Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness. Stop waiting to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Be the light for others to see,” she posited.

Macfoy, who has broken the bias in manning and seafarers’ training, is the only female owner of a Maritime Academy in Nigeria.

Speaking on the recent study by a Swedish tertiary institution, Linnaeus University which revealed that over 50 percent of global women seafarers have been subjected to bullying, she described the problem as an unacceptable degree of gender discrimination and male chauvinism.

Her words: “The truth is that females are coming up and showing that they are indefatigable. The females are professionals and they are more aware of the things they can achieve. In a country like Nigeria, this bias about females is still there but it makes women more daring because they have to think faster and smarter than their male counterparts.”

“WIMA-Nigeria is set up to address this conflict and bias via gender advocacy. As we take this message to those that matter in the executives and legislators, we also engage the regulators and top agencies in the maritime sector. I’m excited that women have emerged in the maritime industry that’s still rated as a male dominated sector. We have seen more women as Ship Captains, Engineers, at the operations level some of the best workers are women. Instead of men showing discipline and leading with their skill-sets having dominated the industry for decades, they have decided to become abusive and deploy chauvinism. I’m expecting the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to rise up to address this matter but all maritime stakeholders and authorities must equally make moves to address this bias in every country.”

In her goodwill message, the former Continental President, WIMAfrica, Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere, SAN, urged women to let their professionalism and hard work come to bear to encourage the younger ones.

Anishere, who was represented by Barr. Oluwakemi Awoniyi, said “as Women in Maritime and Sea Port sector grouped in “African Women in Maritime” (WIMAFRICA/ WIMA-NIGERIA), we shall always continue to strive for better economy and as it concerns women, for gender equality.”

“Gender equality is a right. Fulfilling this right is the best chance we have in meeting some of the most pressing challenges of our time-from economic crisis and lack of health care, to climate change, violence against women and escalating conflicts. Women are not only more affected by these problems, but also possess ideas and leadership to solve them. The gender discrimination still holding too many women back, holds our world back too,” she said.

However, she encouraged the girl child and future leaders, not to relent in good and hard work which make the society a better place for all to live in. “We must BREAK THE BIAS!” she added.

At the press conference to mark the 2022 IWD with equality road-walk, the Executive Secretary of MMS WoFHoF initiative, Mrs. Ifeoma Iloh observed that #BreakingTheBias is more significant in Nigeria to women because it coincided with the renewed agitation for the passage of key gender sensitive bills at the National Assembly.

Lamenting that these bills did not scale through the wall of bias by men at both legislative chambers, she posited that the Initiative lends its voice against this gross insensitivity of some of the legislators for gender-related causes.

“We demand for the immediate passage of all women-related bills at the National Assembly. While we commend the leadership of the House of Representatives for rescinding on their earlier position on the bills, we call on both chambers to revisit the rejected bills. And unless this is done; we shall mobilize Nigerian women to adopt a posture of “NO Gender Bills; NO Vote For Male Candidates” in 2023 general elections and subsequent ones.”

“Why is it difficult to create special seats for women in the national and state houses of assembly? Why the age-long lip-service for the support for 35% Women participation in elective and appointive positions in Nigeria? Why should lawmakers support the floating of women by denial of indigene-ship? A married woman is denied rights in her husband’s place and place of birth on the ground that she has been married out. Why should a reasonable man vote against citizenship by registration? A woman cannot give her foreign husband Nigerian citizenship today. Are we practicing democracy indeed as copied from the west? All these bias against female gender are rooted in male chauvinism and not African culture or traditions,” she said.

In another related development, a 2nd Engineer who works with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Engr. Oluwadamilola Adebamipe revealed how she broke the bias at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt, and emerged best graduating student with first class.

Oluwadamilola, who was the one of the four females in her class of 254 students, was sharing her story at Festac Girls College, in Lagos on Friday when Kaystone Global Resources Limited took a sensitization campaign to the college as part of 2022 IWD celebration.

“It is said that it’s difficult to be a woman in this industry and be happily married. To the glory of God, I’m married and I’m still standing tall in this marine profession. I graduated from Okemesi Grammar School, a public school in a village in Ekiti State. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon but I have always been passionate. You have to decide what your future will be. I learnt that when I was 3 years old my grandmother would always stop me from touching her fans and sockets because I was always looking for something to damage and repair. This was engineering skills and I started saying I wanted to be an engineer while in primary school. Everyone said Engineering was for men but I was resilient.”

“I wanted to go into Electrical Engineering but I was frustrated by JAMB for about five years. I was later sponsored by NIMASA to go for a scholarship in Egypt. I saw just two courses offered by the Academy; Nautical Sciences and Marine Engineering. I didn’t know what Marine Engineering was about then, but I was so excited that the course had engineering. For me, it was a dream coming true. At the school, they were teaching us about maritime and I asked if there was any engineering in the course; when they said yes, I relaxed.”

“Some lecturers later said Marine Engineering is for men and they expressed their reservations about my success in the career. I always gave them a resounding no and insisted on doing the course. I made the first class from the first semester with 3.51, but I kept working harder and by the second semester I had 3.9 out of 4points. Some people called me a witch because of my grade but I said yes, that’s how we succeed in Nigeria. During onboard training I was also the overall best student and I left there with lots of awards. So, this is my story and it should inspire you to be resilient and go for what you want. Have a sense of responsibility, be humble but also know who you are,” Damilola said.

According to her, young girls shouldn’t allow their backgrounds to define them, explaining that even their parents have already played their parts in bringing them into the world as the responsibility for their lives is based on their choices.

“My mother and father separated when I was just a year old and I lived with my grandmother for 16years in a village where we fetched water from the well and removed leaves from the water before drinking it. I recall going for the Cowbell Mathematics Competition at the State level and came third, so it meant I couldn’t go for the nationwide contest in Abuja. I only had my grandmother who encouraged me. I kept reading with candles and lanterns, because power supply was a luxury which came once or twice in a month. I always took my assignments seriously. Set goals for yourself every year and make sure you achieve a minimum of 90 percent,” she added.

Also speaking at the Festac Girls College, the Managing Director of Kaystone Global Resources Limited, Mrs. Benita Afolabi encouraged the young girls to be studious and work towards their dreams.

Benita, a former student and prefect at the college, revealed that she always planned to be a successful business owner and recalled her early business moves as a student when she was the Home Economics prefect and small scale sachet water dealer from the economics store at the school.

Her words: “I’m glad and privileged to be here because I’m one of you. I celebrate you because as I look at you I’m convinced that among you are Managing Directors, Senators, House of Representative Members, Governors, if possible a first female President. In the past women were restricted to household duties but today women don’t just contribute to the home but also other aspects of the society. Modern women are no longer dependent on men. We are independent and self-confident in every aspect and we are capable of doing everything like men.”

She expressed delight that schools and colleges now celebrate women’s day, stressing that it will instill respect and care for women in the minds of the young generation, right from their childhood days.

“It is a great responsibility to empower women and it is necessary for gender equality. Moreover, society is better when women are given equal respect and are not taken for granted. Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination; a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can break the bias in our communities. We can break the bias in our workplaces. We can break the bias in our schools, colleges and universities. Together, we can all break the bias,” she added.

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