Ms Gbemisola saraki, Minister of State for Transportation

Ms Hadiza Usman,NPA MD

By Sandra Chukwunyere
Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the Honourable Minister of State for Transportation has called for strict measures to tackle all forms of sexual harassment and  exploitation as well as discrimination against female workers especially in the nation’s maritime industry.
 Saraki, said the creation and sustenance of such gender friendly workplaces is urgently needed to attract more women into the Maritime industry for rapid and sustainable growth of the industry.
The  Honourable Minister of State for Transportation was the keynote speaker during a webinar put together by the Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ)  to commemorate the 2020 Seafarers Day.
In a lecture entitled, “Enforcing Policies and Legal Instruments Against Sexual Harassment & Exploitation in the Maritime Industry”, Saraki who was represented by Asmau Adaji, Deputy Director, Marine Pollution, Federal Ministry of Transportation challenged government and relevant stakeholders to stop at nothing in making the Maritime industry more friendly and attractive to intending female seafarers.
In her words;  “Female sexual harassment has manifested itself in most sectors including education and maritime, and WIMAJ has adequately captured the concerns of government and Nigerians at large  with the theme- enforcing policies and legal instruments against female sexual harassment and exploitation in the maritime industry.
“I believe that the education sector has taken tough stands on the issue and the Maritime sector should do even more to assuage the fears of intending female seafarers.
“If the theme for the 2019 world maritime day celebration being -empowering women in the maritime Community is to be achieved, government and all stakeholders must be committed not only in increasing the number of women but also ensuring the industry is safe , secure and attractive for women to practice their career”.
Saraki while noting that the fight against sexual harassment should be the collaborative efforts of government, shipping companies, civil societies and other relevant stakeholders, urged that organizations and individuals must shun the culture of silence and inaction to achieve result.
She commended  the fact that based on records ,the number of female seafarers in the nation’s maritime industry appeared to be on the increase and called for it’s sustenance.
“The Nigerian Maritime Industry on it’s part has recorded level of success in attracting women participation and these gains need to he sustained by instilling confidence in female maritime professionals of their safety and right of choice, free from any kind of harassment.
” Nigeria posts higher than the global 2% of female participation. For instance, 9.3% (567) of the 6039 registered seafarers in Nigeria are females while 10.4% (26) out of the (250) students at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron also  females”, she stated.
She emphasised the commitment of the ministry towards making the Maritime industry more friendly to encourage more  female participation.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation, with the assistance of maritime agencies, is committed to formulating policies in line with our subsisting law to address this sad phenomenon, which erodes human dignity and inhibits the womenfolk from pursuing careers and exploring their potential in the maritime sector.”

Contributing,  Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority,Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, stressed  that women have the requisite skills and competences to contribute more to the development of the Maritime industry, thereby ensuring the growth of the nation’s economy.

While regretting that for now the industry has remained largely male dominated, Ms Usman   who was represented by the Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex, Mrs. Funmilayo Olotu  believed strongly that with a more friendly working environment, devoid of gender discrimination and any form of sexual harassment, more women will be attracted to the industry.
She said “The risk of sexual crimes onboard ships is REAL and GETTING HIGHER; There is a dearth of statistics; and there are gaps in international laws where victims are faced with the stark reality that ‘a floating city’ offers no cogent protection based on ambiguous jurisdictional boundaries.”

“A cursory search through the web revealed that: ‘anyone can be sexually assaulted at any time and in any location onboard a ship’; Cases of sexual assault on ships are very rarely prosecuted; 
“The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics in 2017, had 2,279 reported cases of rape and indecent assault, 1,164 reported cases of unnatural offences” (i.e anal sex), zero convictions reported by the Police and only one state out of 36 reported no cases of indecent assault.”
She also said that the “NPA has now developed women’s capacity by recognising and empowering female workforce in the system to be bold and work in a gender-friendly environment.”
Remarkably, she urged the media to support the campaign against sexual crimes through investigative reporting of cases and crate a platform that could serve as a voice to help victims gain confidence to speak out.

The Chairperson WIMAJ, Mrs Ezinne Azunna, had stated that the webinar “is a wake up call for critical stakeholders/organisations in the industry to candidly declare their position against the criminal act of sexual violence and to flag as priority any incidence until the perpetrator(s) are brought to book.”
“The objective of the virtual conference is to provide a platform for broad- based discussion on issues of sexual harassment and exploitation in the industry, especially with regards to female seafarers, and to proffer solutions that would address the problem and lessen the sufferings of victims”, the statement read.

Other speakers included Mrs Margret Orakwusi -Chairperson, Shipowners Forum, Nigeria, Otunba Kunle Folarin- Chairman, Seafarers Welfare Board, Nigeria, Barr Mrs Jean Chiazor Anishere –President, African Women in Maritime (WIMAfrica) and Ms Koni Duniya, Ex Seafarer & Voyage Management Advisor, Nigerian LNG.

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