December 5, 2022

Maritime Today Online

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Saraki: Actionable steps towards female inclusion in seafaring paramount

Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki

… as IMO, stakeholders stress need for visibility, capacity building for females seafarers

The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, has said that the maritime industry needs to deploy actionable measures towards the inclusion of women in the seafaring profession and the maritime industry as a whole.

Saraki stated this at a webinar put together by Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria (FESAN) in collaboration with Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ) to mark the 2021 International Day of the Seafarer on Thursday.

Addressing the forum, Saraki said that deliberately incorporating the female into seafaring would avail the country the opportunity to optimally utilize skilled manpower available in-country and urged females to break barriers in the maritime industry which is largely dominated by males by showing skill and professionalism.

Noting that discrimination against women is underutilization of the country’s human capital potential, she referenced a quote from the popular American musician, Rihanna, calling on women to break barriers through excellent work.

The Minister added that 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 the focus and determination of my passion. My gender is my tool to achieve the unachievable.” This is my vision for the Nigerian female seafarer and women daring to break barriers into professions traditionally seen as the exclusive preserve of men.

“It isn’t 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 action to recognize the importance of women not just to create specific opportunities designated specifically for women because that is the only way it encourages the younger generation who are coming forward”, she said.

The International Maritime Association (IMO) in its goodwill message delivered by Principal Programme Assistant Resource Mobilization and Partnerships, Ms Helen Buni, restated its commitment to increased women participation in the maritime industry and expressed hope that the Maritime industry would be the bedrock for revitalizing the world economies after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Describing increased female visibility and representation as a key concern, the IMO, which said it has for over thirty years flagged the need for more women inclusion commended FESAN for taking the stand for female seafarers.

“IMO has over three decades continued to foster the participation of women in maritime.  We have shone attention on the issues. Seafarers would be highly trained and qualified workers, ready to meet challenges and opportunities of digitalization and automation. We would use this opportunity to rebuild from this crisis, increase visibility and creativity and Maritime would be the foundation of recovery,” 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 the female crew when designing the vessel architecture to make for privacy as more women are now available to work onboard vessels.

He stressed the need to encourage FESAN as females have been proven to work more strategically than men.

“When it comes to shipping, I have found that women are able to do it better and more strategically and that is a welcome development and we should look at our younger and upcoming population and train as many young women who are coming up strongly. Women are extremely cautious and can do what they are asked to do with integrity and so wherever a seafarer finds herself, she should build capacity in that field to excel.

“The way ships are built is evident of the fact that they were built by our gentlemanly folks so, sometimes, the issue of accommodation do not take women into consideration and naturally, it is not right to put everybody in the same cabin so it is important to find our way through that so that the baths on board a vessel can also accommodate them”, Omatseye stated.

President, Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigerian Oron (AMANO), Mr. Emmanuel Maiguwa, in his speech, noted that gender is not an issue in the industry as much as competence is and so, called on the 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 by building capacity in their fields and that 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 inclusivity and sustainability would ensure that female seafarers had 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 and so engaging with 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.