By Kenneth Jukpor & Yusuf Odejobi
Mrs. Chizoba Anyika is an Assistant Director, Shipping Development, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). After delivering a lecture at the MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative event to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day (IWD), she granted this interview to MMS Plus.
Anyika shares her personal life experiences, narrates her journey through the ranks at NIMASA and the numerous associations she belongs to. She also explains the need for women to take advantage of gender based platforms in across various sectors. Excerpts:
In your speech earlier, you stressed the need for women to always strive to make a difference. Can you elaborate that?
For today’s women and the future women, there should be gender balance in core decision-making bodies. The idea isn’t that women should be allowed, but, they should take their rightful place in building skills and requisite competencies so that they can adequately fit into the roles they’re clamouring for. Only a woman that has showcased her skills, her competence and proficiency in whatever she does, can take up the roles. The idea isn’t to give opportunities to women based on gender, but because she is qualified to compete favourably with men.
Therefore, women must strive to make the difference at the workplace either public or private enterprise, as a professional or an entrepreneur.
You’re a member of WISTA, WILAT, CIOTA, CILT, among others. What value does this add to a woman as she strives to make a mark in her career?
I believe that women should aspire to take advantage of gender based platforms in their sector or industry because they cannot walk alone. My sector is maritime; currently I’m the Secretary of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria and the National Publicity Secretary of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIOTA) Nigeria. I’m also a foundation member of Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) which is a branch of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). I’m a member of African Women in Maritime (WIMA-Nigeria). Recently, I was drafted into the diversity committee of WISTA International where we don’t have Nigerians. I must say international politics is tough and for Nigerian women to diplomatically play international politics, they have to start by identifying a platform and taking full advantage of it.
Identifying with these platforms afford you an opportunity to better appreciate those in other aspects of the industry. It is also an avenue to learn from those who have grown through the ranks and risen to the peak. Women can also network and better understand the sector.
When you say the government should reserve certain percentage of the Covid-19 palliative and bailout funds for women; what percentage will be ideal and how will this help dissipate the challenges Nigerian women are facing?
In the formation of government budgets, government should consider gender equality. The reason is that females need some kind of support for their everyday life. There are some crafts, skills that women may want to undertake, especially the less privileged ones, the not so learned, housewives, widows etc. There should be Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), empowerment programmes in agriculture for women in rural and urban areas, especially in this Covid-19 era. We don’t know when this pandemic is going away.
Women need to look at the alternative opportunities that are on the rise, like online marketing, software development, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and all kinds of computer related stuff. In a nutshell, government should create budget to fund and train women who have interest in these areas so as to equip them. If they’re working in organizations where they need to do marketing, sensitize or enlighten the public about their products, they’ll need to know how to use the internet for virtual meetings, seminars, lectures, etc.
You suggested a percentage for women with regards to Covid-19 funding. What percentage would you ask for female entrepreneurs, women-related enterprises or companies that have more women?
Honestly, I’ll say 75%. I’m not being ambitious. You know when you give a woman a house; she turns it into a home. If you give women the leadership role, there would be better progress in the country, and in our organizations. Look around you the countries that are being led by women today, are the best. Few examples are Norway and Germany.
When women lead you see a lot of progress because that potential is there from birth, from upbringing, from caring for children who have lots of potentials. A woman is able to observe, multitask, lead, and make informed decisions.
I said earlier I’m a teacher in children church and through observations I know the kids that quickly grab memory verses and the ones I have to put more effort before he/she catches up. Women have the potential to bring out the best in whoever they meet. I’ll tell you today that I’ve added a lot of value to my husband.
At some point in your life, you traded while searching for corporate jobs, but that’s not a quality many young people have while waiting for the white collar jobs they deserve based on their qualifications. What’s your advice to young ones in such situations?
When I talk to the girl-child, I tell them not to only focus on the successes of top women because everyone has her story. You don’t just look at their successes because it wasn’t a straight path for most of them. If you just have a straight path to success, then it’s not normal, you must encounter some challenges, turns and twists in your process. Anywhere you find yourself in the process, don’t relent and relax. You have to come out of your comfort zone and know that these people you’re seeing riding big vehicles also had their twists and turns. It’s all part of the growth process. You cannot have a child today and expect the child to start running, it takes a process.
When I finished my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at the National Maritime Authority (NMA) my boss then retained me and one other young man, but at the end of the day the work wasn’t forth coming so I started Job hunting. I got a job in Nigerdock but at some point I got tired of the routine and I moved to Abuja to stay with my elder brother where I got job at the Palestine Embassy. Prior to that time, I woke up every morning to walk from building to building submitting my CVs and asking if there was a vacancy. I never knew of the Palestine Embassy, but I was persistent and it paid off because I was called for interview and I was later employed.
The Palestine embassy was the oldest in Nigeria at that time, so as the doyen of the diplomatic corps they were in charge of all the embassies and diplomatic missions. I had the privilege of working with other embassies because they came to our embassy to drop their mails and correspondence.
I was doing that until I was offered admission at University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) for my Masters where I met my husband in class.
That’s a story for another day!
It is no longer good for women to be ranting that they’re being marginalized, because God has given everyone a measure of talent.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or not, people will have their parochial views, but if you blaze the trail, you can be a champion like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Access to information is also a challenge. There are several Banks, Government Agencies and private institutions that have specific products targeted at women but most women aren’t aware of these opportunities. How much sensitization and access to information do we need to build to get the opportunities to more women?
I bank with Access and know some of the Bank’s offer for women through Emails, but I can’t say for national newspapers or other forms of publicity. I think it’s targeted only for their customers but I know they have real quality women giving talks and have been doing that over the years.
Recently, I registered for one of their programmes where top women like Mrs. Ibukun Awosika and several others are resource persons.
So access to information especially about opportunities and mentorship is very important, not only for women but also the men.
However, it is sad that when some women have access to information they hoard it from other women. We’re in a digital age, women should take advantage of social media platforms to disseminate information because information is critical for involvement and engagement.