The 2019 United Nation’s International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated flamboyantly around the world on March 8th, but the MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative chose to take the festivity a step higher with a glamorous outing to honour a select pool of maritime amazons and the MMS Hall Of Famers’ Day on the theme; “Innovating Passion For Sustainable Living: A Night Of Empowerment & Testimonials”.
The event marked a special recognition for nine Indomitable Maritime Amazons, women with beauty and brain, women with intimidating credentials, who have risen and are rising with different leadership and value trajectory.
According to the organizers, these women have threaded where many brave men feared to thread and came out victorious and they are waiting to take their turn in the MMS Hall of Fame, where integrity and value are personified.
The event which held on Tuesday last week had several female maritime bigwigs decorated and celebrated. It was indeed a night to celebrate female achievers in the maritime sector but the amazons also seized the opportunity to drive home several demands from the Federal Government on the female brand.
Some the amazons celebrated at event include; the Director-General of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) Mrs. Obiageli Obi, the President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Hamman, the President of Corporate Truck Fleet Owners Association Nigeria, Mrs. Folake Soji-George, the Acting Registrar of Ships, Nigerian Ship Registration office at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mrs. Nneka Obianyor.
Others were; the Head of Marine Environment Management (MEM) Department at NIMASA, Mrs. Felicia Mogo, the Executive Director, Ocean Deep Services Limited, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy, the Director of Regulatory Services, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) , Mrs. Ifeoma Ezedinma, the Assistant General Manager, Environment with the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Department at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Khadijat Sheidu-Shabi and the Assistant General Manager, New Business Development in the Public Private Partnership Division of NPA, Mrs. Nana Yakubu.
The chairperson of the occasion and Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman stated that the Authority had chosen to identify with the event because it believed that any little initiative that was designed to encourage the potentials and capacity of women should be supported.
Usman who was represented at the event by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, NPA, Mr. Adams Jatto added the theme of the event drove home women ability and the concept of equality for women, recognizing their potentials and their roles as major agents of positive change.
She assured that NPA was fully committed to the welfare of women in general and women in maritime sector in particular as demonstrated substantially in its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
The Managing Director called on women in all areas of endeavours to always prove their worth wherever they found themselves as according to her,” attaining a great feat in life has nothing to do with gender”.
She continued, “Women should also seize the opportunity offered through women empowerment programmes to better their lot in life. Once again, I say congratulations to all recipients of today’s award and to the organizers of this great event”.
Speaking with MMS Plus on the sidelines at the event, the Director-General of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Mrs. Obiageli Obi expressed delight that Nigerian women could be found as Captains, Ship Engineers and top administrators across various maritime related government agencies.
“Maritime is male dominated but women are doing a great job and I can count a number of women making giant strides in various aspects of the maritime sector. However, it is time to for these women to be included in the mainstream politics of maritime. Maritime is a function of what you know and these women are very knowledgeable. They also have the requisite expertise. So, what is keeping them away from the mainstream politics. It’s time to change the tide. We have the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman and I’m so proud of her. Today, I celebrate her and I celebrate every woman here because we are in maritime” she said.
On her part, the President of WISTA Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Hamman said that maritime sector was vast as it availed opportunities for various professions.
“In the maritime industry, there is a place for a teacher, a hair stylist, a cook, engineer, a lawyer, among others. Some people can work on a board vessel while others have opportunities to work on maritime related areas.
She revealed that the maritime industry exposed her to a lot of things she otherwise wouldn’t have known and remarked that she has attained fulfillment by joining the sector.
“If I had not been exposed to the maritime industry, I wouldn’t have learnt a lot of things. You would not be taught everything in the university. It is when you are out of school that you will start learning and I have discovered so many things in the maritime industry” she said.
“Women should not hide their virtues. They can do so many things but because they are suppressed by the men or the society, they wouldn’t know that they have such gifts. Even the world recognizes that women are important and they are giving us a whole year to showcase our potentials. We should take this opportunity seriously because they don’t come by all the time” she said.
She applauded the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside for giving women the opportunity to undertake leadership positions at the agency.
“He has done so much for women in NIMASA. He gave an acting capacity to a woman to head the ship registry, women also heads the human resource department as well as the department of planning and research. He gave everybody an equal opportunity. He likes to encourage women and that is why he is saying he is a member of WISTA. He also sponsored 10 members of WISTA to attend the event. He has daughters so this has made him develop a soft spot for women. If we explain ourselves to him and make our case known, he will support us” she said.
Commenting on the progress of WISTA Nigeria, she said “the future of WISTA Nigeria is bright. Women in the association now have the opportunity to network. Ordinarily, you may not be able to meet a CEO in the maritime industry but because you are a member of WISTA, you get to meet them in an environment that is not too official”
Speaking on the upcoming regional WISTA conference in Ghana, she said the programme was targeted towards developing African women in maritime, noting that there would also be discussion about issues peculiar to the African continent at the event.
According to her, the Secretary General of IMO would grace the occasion, while robust delegations from NIMASA, NPA and top personalities of organizations across the continent will be in attendance. She urged all African women to attend the event so that they can learn new things and build networks.
In his welcome address at the event, the Founder of MMS WoFHoF Initiative, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke said the programme was in commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day and the IMO’s World Maritime Day (WMD) which will be officially marked globally on September 26th this year with the theme: “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.
“Therefore, these programmes viewed from a tripod of delivery provide the opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of gender equality in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and goal 5 in particular which seeks to bridge the gender gap by empowering all women and girls.”
“While the WMD seeks to support the participation of women in both shore-based and seagoing posts, the IWD desires to see the dismantling of all social, economic, religious, cultural and political barriers to gender equality yet provides a time for reappraisal and innovating for change. Hence the global theme: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.”
He stated that MMS WoFHoF Initiative believed that the advocacy for gender parity required concerted actions by all the stakeholders if the mission must be achieved and called for practical actions and strategies.
“Part of our strategy to bridge the gender gap is the dedication of a day to celebrate our Hall of Famers and remind them of their obligation as role models to pull the younger women or the less privileged up by equipping them with knowledge and skills as well as other wherewithal. So, the question today is: How do we innovate to achieve gender parity in work place, politics and personal economy? For the maritime industry, how do we encourage the inclusion of more women in the maritime community?” he said.
“This informed our Vision 5W-250,000, which is conceived to empower 50,000 women yearly for a period of five years. Under this scheme, business grants are given to women evidently in need of funds to grow their business, scholarship are given to the deserving people while regular quarterly business management seminar are given to micro business owners with quick dispensable capital under the MMS WoFHoF Micro Credit Scheme” he said.
He admonished the Federal Government to introduce a gender character policy like the existing Federal Character principle to reflect the gender sensitivity of the UN SGDs on gender equality with 40 per cent employment opportunity reservation for women in both public and private sectors.