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Female Seafarers’ Protection, Women Inclusion Captured In Blue Economy Policy

BY KENNETH JUKPOR

The Secretary of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA),
In a bid to address the multifaceted challenges affecting women in seafaring and the entire maritime sector, gender issues have been extensively addressed in the draft copy of the Nigerian Blue Economy policy.

The President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs.) Odunayo Ani, revealed this while speaking at a summit organized by Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) on Thursday, themed: “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping The Future Of Maritime Safety.”

Dr. Ani, who is also Deputy Director/ Head of Internal Audit at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), gave this assurance as female seafarers narrated the gender-discriminatory ordeals and other challenges in the sector.

“There is an ongoing process to develop the Nigerian Blue Economy policy and most of the issues pertaining to protection of female seafarers and advancing women’s participation in the sector have been captured in that document. I may not be able to quote the document because it is yet to be concluded. It will also have to get Presidential assent before it becomes a public document. Nonetheless, I can assure that women interests are captured and prioritized,” Dr. Ani said.

She described the Code as part of strategic efforts to enhance gender parity in the maritime sector, even as she encouraged industry stakeholders to adopt the Code of Practice which makes provision for 15 subject matters designed to guide actions towards the advancement and welfare of women in West and Central Africa’s maritime domain.

Meanwhile, a female ship captain and Vice President of WISTA Nigeria, Capt. Edidiong Sola-Abalo, warned that gender bias from employers, onboard sexual harassment and victimization of female seafarers may lead to extinction of females in the profession, if the challenges persist.

“If we don’t have an environment where women feel valued, female participation in seafaring wouldn’t grow. This safe environment has to be created via policies, security, infrastructure, etc to create an ambience that supports diversity and inclusion. Sexual harassment onboard is a big issue as some men turn abusive having been away from their wives for months; but there are no laws or policies to curb such abuse.”

“One of the questions I get from young female seafarers or aspiring cadets is whether a female seafarer can have successful careers and manage successful families. I have no answer to this question because there no laws or policies that support women to achieve this. We have several companies that blatantly say no to female seafarers on account of their gender,” Capt. Edidiong lamented.

She also identified an unfair discrimination with female seafarers salaries lower than their male counterparts performing same tasks on board ships and on the same rank.

Also speaking, the President of Maritime Security Providers Association of Nigeria (MASPAN) and President of the Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron (AMANO), Mr. Emmanuel Maiguwa, admonished maritime training institutions to instil discipline as part of their processes to develop male seafarers that have huge regard and respect for females.

While Maiguwa harped on the need to have laws and policies that provide punitive measures for sexual harassment, he asserted that instilling discipline in seafarer trainees will curb the menace of abuse onboard vessels.

On his part, the Managing Director of NLNG Ship Management Limited, Mr. Abdul-Kadir Ahmed, disclosed that the nation’s largest employer of indigenous seafarers reserves 20% of its training scholarships for women.

Ahmed, however, noted that only 5% of the entire seafarers workforce are women even as he revealed that the organization plans to attain 20% women inclusion in the near future.

In her goodwill remarks, the President of Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA) Nugeria, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, promised that the group will continue to support training and advocacy that will advance the development of women in the maritime industry in Nigeria.

“We continue to call support for women in the acquisition of skills and knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) as the maritime industry becomes more digital. We add our voices to the development of legislations, protocols and procedures that will protect women seafarers as they carry out their duties on board vessels and sail around the globe. We congratulate the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping for organizing this conference at this time,” Edodo-Emore said.

Credit: Nigerian Shippers Council

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