Nigerian Navy’s first female two-star general, Rear Adm. Itunu Hotonu (rtd) said on Thursday there was need to do away with discriminatory laws and practices which held women back, to achieve true gender equality.
Hotonu said this at the 2019 World Maritime Day Celebration in Lagos, themed “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.
According to her, women have long been in the maritime industry in Nigeria, but as usual, as unsung heroes.
She said that there must be strategies for empowering women so that participation would remain on an upward trajectory.
She listed the strategies as: early and focused education, role model and mentorship programme, provision of enabling environment and building women for roles to meet challenges of dynamic leadership.
“Research has shown that economies thrive when there is good gender balance and women are often dynamic leaders of change.
“However, discriminatory laws still hold some women back and a lot is due to cultural and societal barriers, but even a fair share is due to women themselves.
“Mentoring by role models will go a long way in changing these dynamics,” she said.
Hotonu said that the maritime environment had barriers to the involvement of women in shipping, but the society needed to understand that underestimating women would lead to shortchanging terms of operational effectiveness.
She said that when women are exposed to maritime education and experience, the results for the maritime environment would be tremendously progressive.
Hotonu said it was time to acknowledge that women are naturally endowed with unique leadership skills, which if harnessed, would further strengthen the maritime environment.
According to her, sensitising the girl child and making the industry attractive are important in ensuring women participation in the industry.
She said that moving forward, it was time for women to begin to own ships as a matter of course and occupy leadership positions in various sectors of the industry.
“It is time for women to be involved in greater numbers in tapping of Marine resources such as commercial fishing, Marine mining and others.
“It is time to train women who put to sea, equip them with experience, enough education and adequate training,” Hotonu said.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman urged policy makers to put out policies that would support girls getting and staying in employment in the maritime industry.
She also said that there was need to accommodate the dynamic nature of women to enable them to thrive in the industry.
Also, Mrs Ify Akerele, former Director General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), urged women to move away from mediocrity and embrace knowledge.
According to her, women should research and look at other countries to see how they do things. She urged them to get serious and be practical in what they do.