- IMO, Maritime Stakeholders want Visibility, Capacity Building for Female Seafarers
The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, has said that the Maritime Industry needs to deploy actionable measures towards inclusion of women in seafaring profession and the Maritime Industry as a whole.
The Minister made this known in her keynote address, at a webinar put together by Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria (FESAN), in collaboration with Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ), to mark 2021 International Day of the Seafarer, last Thursday.
Addressing the forum, Senator Saraki, stressed that deliberately incorporating females into seafaring would avail Nigeria the opportunity to optimally utilise skilled man-power available within the country. She urged females to break barriers in the maritime industry, which is largely dominated by males by showing skill and professionalism.
Speaking further, the Minister noted that discrimination against women brings about under-utilisation of the country’s human capital potential. Referencing a quote from the popular American musician, Rihanna, the Minister called on women to “break barriers” through excellent work.
The Minister added; “deliberate policies that create specific opportunities designated or marked specifically for women are required to encourage the younger generation.
“My strength does not lie in my gender but in focus and determination of my passion. My gender is my tool to achieve the unachievable.
“This is my vision for Nigerian female seafarers and women daring to break barriers into professions traditionally seen as exclusively preserve for men.
“It is not that we underestimate the fact that we have to work hard but we also have to understand that many times women are discriminated against. No matter how good we are, no matter how fantastic we are, we are discriminated against not by how much effort we put in but just by our gender. A few of us crack the ceiling and quickly cement it back.
“We are not going to stay there picking out painted nails, we are going to strive. We have to take some form of affirmative actions to recognise the importance of women, not just to create specific opportunities designated, or marked specifically for women because that is the only way it encourages the younger generation coming forward”.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in its goodwill message delivered by Ms Helen Buni, Principal Programme Assistant, Resource Mobilisation and Partnerships, restated its commitment to increased women participation in the maritime industry, expressing hope that the industry would be the bedrock for revitalising the world economies after COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing increased female visibility and representation as key concerns, the IMO said it has for over 30 years flagged the need for more women inclusion, commended FESAN for taking the stand for female seafarers.
“IMO has over three decades fosters participation of women in maritime. We have shown attention on the issues. Seafarers would be highly trained and qualified workers, ready to meet challenges and opportunities of digitalisation, as well as automation. We would use this opportunity to rebuild from this crisis, increase visibility, creativity and Maritime would be the foundation of recovering”, she said.
Former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Administration (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye, who also spoke at the event identified the need to be mindful of female crew when designing the vessel architecture to make for privacy, as more women are now available to work onboard vessels.
He emphasised the need to encourage FESAN, as females have been proven to work more strategically than men.
“When it comes to shipping, I have found out that women are able to do it better and more strategically. That is a welcome development and we should look at our younger and upcoming population to train as many young women who are coming up strongly. Women are extremely cautious and can do what they are ask to do with integrity. So, wherever a seafarer finds herself, she should build capacity in that field to excel.
“The way vessels are built is evident of the fact that they were built by our gentlemanly folks. Therefore, sometimes, the issue of accommodation does not take women into consideration. Naturally, it is not right to put everybody in the same cabin, so it is important to find a way through, so that the baths on board a vessel can also accommodate them”, Omatseye stated.
Mr. Emmanuel Maiguwa, President, Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron (AMANO) in his speech, noted that gender is not an issue in the industry, as much as competence is. So, he called on women to concentrate on building their capacity.
“There is no doubt that there are limitations. These challenges are there but we should consider the likes of Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala and others, all of them did not get to their positions because they are women. They faced their challenges and got to where they are and that is building capacity in their fields. This is what a shipowner is looking for in a seafarer,” he said.
Maiguwa appreciated FESAN for setting up the platform for seafarers, adding that it would serve as an avenue for them to lodge complaints of sexual harassment.
Mrs Hope Orivri, who represented the Women in Maritime Journalism, noted that inclusiveness and sustainability would ensure that female seafarers have a fair future.
“FESAN is doing a good work by ensuring that seafarers have a place to be and they will give them the voice to speak. As such, engaging them will ensure a fair future for them”, Orivri said.
The convener of the webinar and President of FESAN, Ms. Koni Duniya earlier in her welcome address, said the organisation is a channel for female seafarers to have their voices heard, while demystifying the idea of the sea is not for females and exposing the challenges they face in the profession.
“We started out as a support and advocacy group for women working at sea to demystify the uncommon idea of females working at sea in Nigeria just as it is in Scandinavian countries, to protect and promote the rights of female seafarers in the workplace, specifically from any form of discrimination because of their gender and to create a conducive environment where they can discuss their challenges”, she said.
The webinar themed, “Fair future for Female Seafarers”, held to mark the 2021 International Seafarers Day, also had sister organisations like the Women in Maritime Africa- Nigeria, as well as Women in Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) in attendance.