- Advocates for gender responsive maritime industry after pandemic
By Kenneth Jukpor
Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria has commended the Federal Government, maritime agencies as well as private companies for their efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the nation’s maritime space.
The association made this known in a press release signed by its President, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke, who appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to combating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with his recent national broadcast.
Noting that despite the lockdown ordered by the Federal Government for residents of Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States, the Lagos seaports were exempted which heightens the need for port operators to adhere to safety measures and prioritize hygiene; the group commended port stakeholders for their efforts so far.
“We are committed to supporting efforts aimed at sensitising the Nigerian Maritime sector and preventing the spread of COVID-19 virus at our seaports and are re-assured that the various maritime agencies and authorities through the Federal Ministry of Transportation will take measures to ensure that the business of our women will not collapse at the end of the pandemic”, she said.
WISTA Nigeria, however, recognized that the imposition of the ‘stay-at-home’ order has led to harsh economic times, even as the ban on social activities has crippled enterprises of female maritime entrepreneurs.
“We, therefore, call on industry leaders to address the adverse post socio-economic effects. We must not be gender blind in our responses to the pandemic, or else women will carry a disproportionately higher level of economic loss”, she posited.
She also observed that apart from Lagos and Abuja, most states are not well equipped with Isolation Centres and Testing Kits, admonishing the Federal Government to assist other states with the necessary equipment to fight the pandemic.
“Also, Petty Trading women and Small and Medium Enterprises are badly hit as they can no longer fend for their families, especially widows and single mothers. Provisions should be made for them and help given,” she said.
According to her, women contribute significantly to the maritime service sectors such as catering, chandeling, freight forwarding, shipping, among others. With limited access to credit, many female entrepreneurs in the sector will be forced to close their businesses.
Looking beyond the pandemic, she urged maritime industry leaders to carry out deliberate human capacity development programmes such as education and training of women entrepreneurs.
“We must not overlook the opportunities which the post coronavirus pandemic presents. We must effect systemic changes in the maritime sector that will protect women and reduce the level of burden like this in the future.”
“In doing this the industry bigwigs should consider supporting women in small and medium scale shipping businesses, where women entrepreneurs are relatively more represented”, she said.
The association also called for more transparency and simplification of public procurement processes to assist women businesses in contract awards, stating that Nigeria’s ability to bounce back from this crisis was dependent on the involvement of women to rebuild the economy.
“WISTA Nigeria is willing to partner with industry organisations in this regard,” she added.