By Ambrose Okehi Sandra Chukwunyere
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms Hadiza Usman has commended initiators of the 2019 Day of the Seafarer and the choice of this year’s theme: “On Board With Gender Equality”
Ms Hadiza Usman spoke at an event held at Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos on Tuesday June 25,2019 was represented at that occasion by the Executive Director (ED) Marine and Operations, Mr Sekonte Davies, joined her colleagues in the maritime sector in Nigeria to welcome the participants to the celebration of this year’s edition of the seafarer.
According to Hadiza, I am particularly happy that this year‘s event is focused on the importance of increasing the participation of women in the maritime sector.
He continued: ”Earlier this year. I had joined a few other women activists in the sector to discuss the same issue at the World Maritime university
( WMU )Sweden. The event at the WMU also had the stamp of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and it is gratifying that the IMO is again joining the Nigeria Maritime Administration & Safety Agency,(NIMASA) in the the maritime industry.
Although gender Imbalance is gIobal problem in the labour market.
The worst example of this phenomenon exist in the maritime community where records from the IMO Indicate that a disheartening 2% of the workforce are women.
And most of the women captured in the data take roles in Administration Marketing, Communications, Law. Women are rare occurrence in the actual practices of seafaring, fishing, sea food harvesting and the like.Given the overarching role that this sector plays in global economy,it is an unhelpful situation that demands urgent and deliberate actions from stakeholders.
The truth is that the world cuts itself short by excluding nearly 50% of its population from having a good shot at making the world a better place so, irrespective of how many development goals bare set, this uneven gender distribution cum participation would most certainly destract from properly grounding the blue economy.It is significant that this is not just an African problem as one would imagine resulting from the fact that the continent is set and unable to immediately overcome certain traditional and religious practices which ordinarily exclude women from certain career opportunities.
In a lot of traditional societies on the continent, educating the girl-child is still so contentious that imagining having women on the high societies operating heavy duty equipment at port locations would be worse than nightmare!
But we must go past all these primordial sentiments and give our citizens, irrespective of gender the best opportunities that life offers them. And this why events like the one of which we are gathered today are important . We must continue to engage one another and discuss ways to prepare our girls for that exist in this sector and ensure that women already have carees in the sector make the use of the same Some of the steps that I think we must consider as citizens of this country
* Encouraging young girls to take interest in Science Technology,Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects so they can pursue careers in shipping, marine, operations and engineering sub-sectors Providing incentives for girls to take courses in these areas women who have broken through the barriers in this sector must institute a mentoring system that encourages young ladies to take careers and create a pipeline of succession in the maritime sector.Government agencies and private sector investors must also be deliberate about increasing the tally of women in the sector. Last year for instance,TCIT, one of our Terminal Operators recruited the first set of female crane operators in Nigeria. We have assured all stakeholders of our readiness to partner with them on this front.
Working conditions that ensure the retention of women at work even after they would have started child j be introduced. Very essential to this is the question of maternity entitlements. Women should have at least between 18 and 24 weeks before having to go back to work after childbirth and the opportunity to leave work early for a few months after. The NPA has now increased maternity leave for women to 16 weeks as against the 12 weeks obtainable in the national civil service. Nursing mothers are also allowed to report for duty one (1) hour after the official resumption time and close one (1) hour earlier than the official closing time every day. The NPA has also insisted that the female workforce would be entitled to a maternity leave irrespective of their marital status.
We have also recently commissioned a crèche facility where nursing mothers can keep their babies at work and go to breastfeed during break and return to work.Networks or associations in the industry should continue to provide platforms for women to share experiences, encourage each other and battle their challenges with one voice.We must constantly remind pereive that women matter and that when we build women,we build our humanity.Permit me to share these inspirational words of from the late Nelson Mandela with you on a final note:” I t is Important that government structures understand that true freedom and prosperity cannot be achieved unless….we see in visible and practical terms that the condition of women in our country has radically changed for better and that they have been empowered in all spheres of life as equal .