Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, has called on government agencies at all levels, especially those in the maritime industry, to ensure the achievement of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, aimed at attaining gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Mrs. Buhari made the call in Lagos on Tuesday as Nigeria joined the International Maritime Organization ( IMO) and other maritime nation’s of the world to celebrate this year’s Day of the Seafarer with the theme “On Board with Gender Equality”.
Represented by the wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo, Mrs. Buhari said the celebration focusing on women’s seafarers is very apt as it is in line with the Federal Government’s agenda on job creation and women empowerment, noting that the President is desirous of seeing more women play more active role in the maritime industry.
She said, “I am very delighted to be part of this important event in view of the fact that this year’s theme is centered on gender equality and the empowerment of women in the maritime industry. This is against the backdrop of women’s poor rate of participation in seafaring and it is also worthy of note that this year’s theme is in tandem with the Federal Government agenda on job creation and power empowerment.
“It is important to educate young girls on the opportunities and benefits derivable from being a seafarer and to dissuade them the belief that seafaring is only meant for men. They need to know that there are equal opportunities for both men and women in shipping.”
The First Lady, who commended the leadership of NIMASA for encouraging women become professional seafarers through the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), also lauded the efforts of few indigenous companies that have adopted as a policy, fair and equal employment opportunities for both men and women.
In his good will message, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, disclosed that the country spent about $9 billion as freight on wet and dry cargo due to lack of national fleet in 2015.
According to him, “In the international carriage of goods, Nigeria does not have a single ship, so all what we have been doing is slave for foreign ships. $9 billion and rising is what we pay, not for Nigerian ships but ships elsewhere. Imagine what the earnings of freight will do, if these are Nigerian ships?
“When we talk of Nigerian ships, we are also talking about our Nigerian banks, insurance companies, mariners, seafarers, surveyors and our seamen. All these are not gaining because we don’t have ships. So the issue is not actually whether women are going to be employed but on what ships. We need to have those ships before women are employed.”
Bello, while calling for more participation of women in seafaring, also informed that only about two percent of the world seafarers are women.
“The reason for the low percentage of women in seafaring is understandable. It ranges from the harsh working environment in the sea to issues such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination and inappropriate comments. Section 17 of the Nigeria constitution states that every citizen should have equal right before the law, despite this catalytic provision, it has not been easy for women to fight gender discrimination,” he said.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, earlier in his welcome address stressed that women are central to the accomplishment and efficiency of most successful world economies.
He assured that the agency will continue to pursue policies and programmes that will accelerate gender equality and empowerment of women in the maritime sector as well as improved welfare packages and working conditions for seafarers in line with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006.
According to him, “In addition to the 304 female cadets we have trained in seafarers since the inception of the National Seafarers Development programme (NSDP), greater attention will now be given to the training of female seafarers in specialized courses and areas to enable them take up professional responsibilities in specialised vessels and off shore operations and maritime sector generally.
“Following the resolve to implement the new Cabotage Compliance Strategy that suspends waiver on cabotage manning, the placement of women on board vessels will be given very high priority. An enabling environment will be created to ensure their preference. I am happy to inform you that we have already recorded success in this regard, as about 7, 000 Nigerians were employed by ship owners between 2019 and first quarter of 2019.”
In her message delivered by video call, President of the World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden, Cleopatra Doumbia–Henry, expressed concern that though women participation in shipping and maritime industry remained critical, women participation and empowerment has remained as abysmally low as it was 25 years ago.