By Frank Odinukaeze, Sabastine Mbah & Chioma Akabuogu
May 18th has become very significant and memorable to all women in the maritime industry globally. For it is a day that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in recognition of the contributions of women in the growth of the industry has set aside every year to honor, recognize, appreciate and appreciate the Maritime Amazons.
The theme for this year’s maiden edition of the program is “Visibility, Recognition and Supporting a Barrier Free Work Environment”. It is therefore commendable for IMO, to set aside this day to honor and celebrate women in the maritime industry, who against all odds have held their own in an industry environment that is highly dominated by men.
Last Wednesday, the inaugural IMO Day for Women in Maritime was held in Nigeria and globally. In Nigeria, an event was jointly hosted by Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria and Women in Maritime Association (WIMA) Nigeria. The theme for the WISTA-WIMA program was: “Maritime Security Issues and Blue Economy”.
Speaking at WISTA-WIMA event in Lagos via Zoom, 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 deliberation at the summit. While expressing delight over some accomplishments of the nation in recent times, Dr. Ajani also harped on the need, to collaborate to achieve victories in maritime industry and other aspects of the sector
According to her,” It will 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 other to move successful in their respective fields” she said.
In a chat with MMS Plus Newspaper, a former Managing Director of National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIINA), Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa, said the event of today is very significant because women around the world has played important roles in Maritime, but not being recognized. IMO’s decision to dedicate a day to celebrate women in maritime industry gladdens my heart. Women have been making responsible progress, even though we are expecting them to do more as we try to break the bias. The opportunities for women in the Maritime sector are immense from the field of fisheries to renewable energy, seafaring to capacity building, amongst others but we have to break the bias” she said.
According to her, 2% of Seafarers around the world are women. She stated that more advocacies will be required to correct this imbalance, and therefore called for more NGO’s in the maritime sector to enhance advocacy.
Mrs. Ezenwa noted that “MMS Women of Fortune Hall of Fame (WOFHOF) initiative is trying to raise more awareness and sensitization, but I think we should do more. 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 is a lot to do in order to get more women on board in seafaring and across various aspects of Maritime “ she submitted.
A former continental President of African Women in Maritime (WIMA Africa) Mrs. Jean Chiazor Anishere (SAN), noted that International Maritime Organization (IMO), declaration of May 18 Maritime Women’s Day, is aimed at getting women pick interest in maritime and correcting the erroneous belief that maritime is meant for the men folk.
On the issue of female seafarers being molested on board vessels, Anishere said the problem is reducing following wide publicity and deliberations on the issue globally and by WISTA and WIMA, Nigeria.
President of WISTA Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke noted that one of the fundamental challenges facing women is lack of access to funds. “Maritime and Shipping investment require huge capital and in Africa, until recently, women were not encouraged to own properties and have assets. Women need to own Vessels, and we are looking forward to the day when members of WISTA, WIMA or other associations could have a consortium of women to buy Vessels, barges, passenger boats or local cruise boats” she said. She submitted that financial institutions should structure loans with low interests for women interested in Maritime businesses such as ship acquisition, fishing trawlers, farmers, ship brokerage, amongst others.
For president of WIMA, Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy, she advised women not to be deterred by high cost of Maritime trainings but find out the most relevant training for their respective fields and go for them.
Macfoy noted that this is the first time WIMA and WISTA are coming together for a program 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 grater accomplishment 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 amongst others “she stated.
In a related development, a call has gone to the government to implement IMO Res, A1147 (31) Sustainable Development Goal 5.
Speaking at the International Day for Women In Maritime, 2022, in Abuja, with the theme: Training- Visibility- Recognition-Supporting a Barrier-Free working Environment for Women in Maritime and speaking on the topic:” Are Women’s contributions to Maritime accorded due recognition in work environment”, Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro, former Secretary General, Abuja MOU for West and Central Africa and Managing Partner, Paul Usong and Co., urged governments, maritime administrators and the maritime sector to share best practices in achieving gender equality, with a view to achieving a barrier- free working environment for women in the Maritime community.
She said efforts should be “strongly encouraged to collect, consolidate and analyze data regarding the participation of women in the Maritime sector, set baselines, identify gaps and develop policies aimed at removing barriers and increasing female participation in the sector”
Usoro called on the IMO to prevail on governments to nominate female officials to every IMO trainings and meetings.
Similarly, the Charted Institute of Transport Administration (CIOTA), Nigeria while celebrating the IMO maritime day for women argued that women should be visible and recognized in the industry.
Speaking on the platform created for the occasion, by the CIOTA, in Abuja, last week Thursday, Hajia Lami Tumaka, a retired Director at the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), specifically called for more purposeful and strategic approaches to enable women in the industry get visibility and recognition.
Hajia Tumaka who spoke on the need for training urged the woman to build their capacity in their choosen careers, for them to qualify and take available opportunities for themselves.
“Training is critical for women to take up higher responsibility in the Maritime. Nobody will give you a seat because you are a woman. You have to build your capacity and show that you can be there and play at the highest level. That’s what the theme for this year’s International Day for Women in Maritime Sector is” she said.
Continuing, she added “While we know we are not yet where we should be, but we can get there, there are various women who have been outstanding and have distinguished themselves:- the likes of Mrs. Mfon Usoro, the first DG of NIMASA, first woman president of CILT and Abuja MOU; Mrs. Margret Orakwus, Princess Vicky Haastrup, Jean Chiazor Anishare, Juliana Gunwa, Mrs. Bola Muse, Dr. Amy Jadesimi, Lami Tumaka and many more. We all tried to break the bias. We worked hard and built our capacity” she said.
Tumaki decried the imbalance and seeming injustices that are meted out to the woman in working places. “Female police officers cannot have children for a certain length of time. That’s gender inequality. In the game of football, table tennis, there is wide gap in payment between women and men. Men get paid higher than women even when they participated in the same game “she lamented.
She hailed the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 for seeking the promotion of women. She called for more inclusiveness for women on boards of parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Speaking also at the forum, Dr. Mercy Bello Abu, the River State Co-coordinator for WISTA, lauded the theme around training and retraining which she recognizes as a path to achieving great goals as women.
Dr. Abu had this advice for women: “For the women in the industry, do acknowledge compliments, appreciate others, and prepare the next generation. We must be selective in networking with people, choose and plan your relationship, use your talent and know what you are doing with it “she said.