Women are often relegated to the back bench, especially in the maritime sector with the notion that they do not possess the physical and mental strength to wade through the rigours associated with the business. ANOZIE EGOLE writes that the women folk are ready to compete with their male counterparts for leading roles in the industry
Oftentimes, women are considered as weaker vessels and as such, not fit enough to handle some jobs or contracts, especially in the maritime sector. This explains the fact that in the Nigerian maritime industry today, women actively involved in the clearing processes are less than 20 per cent of the total licensed agents in the sector. Most of them operating around the ports axis are the ones, involved in point-of-sales services, sales of recharge cards, food vendors, and phone calls among others.
This can be attributed to how society perceives women to be people who do not really have the physical strength or mental capabilities to carry out some tasks even though in the real sense of it, there is practically nothing a man can do that a woman cannot do.
Findings have also shown that the recent development in the maritime sector shows that most ship-owners do not like having female seafarers on board their vessels, a development that has left many qualified female seafarers jobless while their male counterparts are allowed to work even when some of them may not be as qualified as some of the females.
Meanwhile, findings have shown that most women have proven to be more diligent and committed to assigned duties and responsibilities than their male counterparts when given the opportunity.
Some of the challenges the maritime sector is facing could be a result of women not being given the opportunity to contribute their quota in the industry.
In a recent chat with the PUNCH in Lagos, the Nigerian Chapter Chairperson of Women in Maritime Africa, Mrs. Rollen Macfoy, spoke on the need for women to also be given equal opportunity in the sector like their male counterparts.
She appealed to the new Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, to ensure capacity building for women and consider the women in his appointments, adding that by so doing, women will be more productive to drive the sector forward.
Macfoy laments that African women in maritime are not being encouraged and so they are very few. ‘’We are women of substance, we are courageous and we are experienced in different areas or sectors in this industry. We want to tell our new minister that we are ready to cooperate with him and put our shoulders on the wheel with him to drive this new ministry. We also want to crave his indulgence to consider women in his appointments, being gender sensitive.”
Fight with ship-owners
At the 2023 Lagos International Maritime Week, the Vice President of the Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Damilola Adebimpe, raised the alarm on the level of denials the women face in the sector.
Adebimpe who was represented at the event by Louis Njoku, said the opportunities are not always there for women to function like their male counterparts in the sector.
She said, “Some Nigerian ship-owners do not take female seafarers. That is what we are trying to do; we are trying so much to speak to ship-owners to let them know that a woman is the same thing as a woman. What men are doing these days can’t be compared to what women can achieve. The ships themselves are not built in such a way to allow women. They will tell you they only have facilities for males; there are no facilities for women so we can’t take women. So it is a great challenge and that is what we are facing but we keep advocating, we will keep talking until our voices are heard,” She said.
Macfoy, however, reiterated the need for women empowerment in the sector to be able to function optimally.
“For WIMA, we are a gender advocacy group and we engage in mainstream participation and we cannot do this without empowerment. Just a few days ago, one of us had issues about license renewal which will cost her N1m. We rallied round her and raised N2m for her to travel to the Philippines for that purpose. On her return back to Nigeria, we also facilitated how she got a job.
Macfoy also disclosed that her association is offering scholarship to children in secondary schools that want to pursue a career in maritime. ‘’And we have been instrumental to many of them entering the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, and Oceanography. I personally visit Oceanography to sensitize them.”
On the other hand, the Nigerian Chapter Chairperson of Women in Shipping and Transport Africa, Eunice Ezeoke, advocated for women to take the leading positions in different government agencies, especially in the maritime sector.
She said, “On the issue of women advocating for the clearing of the waterside, I have nothing against that however, there is a cost to that. At WISTA, one of the challenges we are having is that everything we do we sponsor it by ourselves. It is not easy for women to undertake such projects that would have been sponsored by the local, state, or federal government. And even some government agencies. The function of women especially in a professional association like this is not just to clean the waterways. We want to be policymakers, we want to be in boardrooms, and we want to head agencies and corporate organisations. We can also speak and would also want to be on the other side of the table. So we must take note of that. While we are cleaning the beaches and the environments, we would also want to be in the board room as well.” Ezeoke concluded.