Let me use myself as a case study. When I graduated from Federal College of Fishery and Marine Technology, I faced the challenge of securing space for my cadetship. The reason is that all the shipping companies I have been to, they told me that I am not from Oron and that my school is not recognized and it is under the Ministry of Agriculture. So, because of this, they could not give me the opportunity to serve onboard their vessel. I thank God for Nigerdock because if not for Nigerdock, I will not be able to be who I am today. I went to Nigerdock to secure a place for slot. They told me they don’t have big vessels, they only have crafts and badges. They intend to put me onboard the vessel that came there for piloting. They also advised me if I don’t mind to build my career with them. So, I was very happy and decided to stay with them since 2012. So, ever since then, I am the first female to navigate all their badges and crew boats. If not for the opportunity they gave me without discriminating that I did not graduate from Oron, where would I have been today? So, during my service there, I have been dedicated to my job to the extent that I forged ahead to other higher degrees. Presently, I have Masters in Maritime Transport from Ladoja Akintola University of Technology. As I speak, I am the Business Development Manager for Nigerdock shipyard. I have been with them for seven years plus and they are busy building my career, guiding me, giving me professional trainings. I was licensed by NIMASA. I am also a river Master. If other shipping companies are not discriminating, we females in this profession will grow better than this.
We have a lot of challenges. The first one being recruitment. It is always very difficult for females to get placement onboard because most companies believe females cannot do the work. They believe females are not strong enough to do the job. That is part of the challenges we have. Apart from that, there’s sexual harassment. Being a female when you go to apply, someone wants to date you or passes sexual advances to you. If you don’t fall in, they may end up not employing you. When you go onboard as a female, sometimes you get harassed. Maybe as a cadet, your captain wants to friend you. I have such a challenge when I was onboard. But I thank God I was able to overcome it.
Generally, women have challenges being in the world of men’s professions. Women in shipping and women in maritime are delving into that kind of value chain that has been dominated by men and it is only recently that women are now taking their positions in the management of maritime, shipping and it is tough. The men are kind of resisting. They are wandering why should women come and rub shoulders with them. Somehow, being a leader in that value chain as a woman, I always tell professional women that they just have to excel and do more and be better than the men because if you are not better than the men, you cannot occupy that position. When a man in that profession makes mistakes, they overlook but if it is a woman, they will be like no wonder, it’s a woman. So, that is why a woman needs to lead above board. A professional woman in maritime and shipping need to have capacity building. You have to be skilled and you have to be dynamic in keeping abreast with the digitization in the global environment so that you can overcome all the challenges. In short, a woman for me in maritime or in shipping just needs to think outside the box and be well equipped so that where the men are, she can also fit in and do better. They always say, when you train a woman, you are training a nation and what a man can do, a woman can do better. The challenges are there but I don’t want the women in maritime to see the challenges, instead they should overcome the challenges.
I feel it is gender inequality. Gender inequality is a big problem in the sense that most maritime investors they don’t believe in the females. They feel stevedoring is a male thing and generally it is a man’s world, so females are not supposed to be onboard. When we have the opportunity to go onboard, there’s sexual harassment. For example, if we have 25 people onboard and just one female, every male would want to hang out with that one female at the same time. Another thing is, when things don’t go well, they feel having a female around is like having less manpower. For instance, you have a female engineer and they feel what is meant to be done within a short while might take more time with the female. From my perspective, I feel gender inequality is a huge challenge. To us female, when we actually went into the field. We feel we can do what the guys are doing out there, and that is why we went into it. But this gender inequality thing is actually causing a great challenge. For example, if you finish school say 5 years ago, and be looking for how to get a placement onboard, and you have not been able to get a placement. Since you can’t get a placement, you begin to think of getting married and settling for something else. I feel they should give us an opportunity because we can actually do better. I feel there is nothing men do onboard that we cannot do as well.
First of all, as a lady our first challenge onboard is our family because every lady or woman will always think about her family. Secondly, the men you are working with won’t see you like you are strong and fit for the job. So, I feel most times they would want you to do the lesser job when you are supposed to do the real job like what brought you there. Most times when onboard, women do get this inferiority complex because of the way guys behave towards them. We all know professionally as a woman, you are not supposed to go after your fellow guy. But some men still want to show affection towards you because they know women are weaker vessels. But the main challenge women face is that they are not given the opportunity to show their skills; not given the opportunity to bring out the God-given talent, what they really went to learn. You are taking this course as a woman, you are supposed to know you are taking something big.
The challenges we females face in the maritime industry is: most of us are not being encouraged. When you get there you see that some persons tend to remind you that you are a woman and that such jobs are not meant for women. That is where the discouragement comes in. So, with this discouragement so many things have gone wrong. You might even go in search of placement; some companies would tell you we do not take females. These are part of the challenges we face for reasons best known to them. If you are to go by that, it is equivalent to say women should not work at all. But to scrap that case aside and keep the differences aside, let us see how we can help them out than putting them away in the name of ‘you are a woman’. Another challenge is sexual harassment. Some top officers might just want to use you to satisfy their sexual urge. Now, it is left for the authority to pick interest in this case and see how can they reduce it else it will keep haunting the females onboard.
One of the challenges we have at sea is they don’t want to give females the chance to come onboard, they believe that it’s a men’s world. But the number one thing is discrimination. They believe that we cannot do it but they have forgotten that a woman is very capable. If a woman can carry a child for nine months, she is capable of handling any situation. And when it comes to the office, women are more competent. We know how to put things right. I am begging the shipping companies to try and accommodate more females. We are out there the same way the men are doing, we can do it.
First of all, I would mention discrimination. There is discrimination among the shipping companies against female cadets and female seafarers. Rarely will you see shipping companies employ female seafarers but I do hope it will be addressed. There is sexual harassment by male officers on the vessel. I pray that should be investigated. The weather is also a challenge but it is something we are already getting used to. We won’t say the weather is an obstruction or an obstacle. We’ll get to pass that when going onboard, these are things we face. So we are always ready for it. The things we are not ready for are the discrimination and the sexual harassment onboard vessel.