Four women maritime associations have partnered to form Women in Maritime Network to deepen involvement and make more impacts in the industry.
The women associations are: Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA), Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA), African Women in Maritime (WIMA) and lady seafarers.
Mrs Eunice Ezeoke, Nigeria President, WISTA, in an interview in Lagos on Thursday, said that the partnership would ensure gender equality in the maritime sector.
Ezeoke added that the merger as an umbrella body would ensure that maritime women grow and operate on same level with their counterparts in other African countries.
Ezeoke was also speaking in commemoration of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) International Day for women in maritime, celebrated every May 18.
This year’s IMO International Day for women in maritime is the second in Nigeria.
It promotes the recruitments, retention and sustained employment of women in the sector.
The theme for this year celebration is; “The Importance of Collaboration and Networking in Achieving Gender Equality in the Maritime Sector”.
“Today is International Day for Women in Maritime which started last year by Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr Kitack Lim.
“The collaboration, mobilising network for gender equality is highlighted this year, Nigerian women in the maritime industry already started this networking and collaboration since last year.
“We in WISTA Nigeria galvanised and synergised with other women associations in the industry and we held a seminar last year to mark that day. We collaborated with WIMA Nigeria, WIMOWCA and lady seafarers.
“Then this year, we went further and decided to come under one umbrella, Women in Maritime Network. The purpose of this collaboration and coming under one umbrella is to have a stronger voice in advocacy matters concerning the growth of women in the industry,” she said.
Ezeoke said the partnership was also to address challenge of maritime agencies, lack of audience from corporate bodies because of having fragmented associations in the industry.
She noted that when women maritime associations seek support and sponsorship as individual groups, they were often advised to come as one body.
“The associations that agreed to come under one umbrella were WISTA, the oldest maritime women professional association in Nigeria that is almost 30 years, WIMA that is nine years, WIMOCA that is about two, three years and Lady Seafarers of Nigeria.
“We had already informed the Ministry of Transportation. What we are waiting for is to start seeing the fruits of this coming together,” she said.
She said that benefits of the partnership would include support from corporate organisations, shipping companies, ministries and, agencies such Nigerian Ports Authority and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Others agencies she listed include National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council, major shipping companies, banks and insurance companies.
“We are suffering in Nigeria as professional women association.
“When we manage to travel out, to start with, nobody sponsors you, none from the government, it is self effort.
“Then, when you are sponsored and you get there, you see other African countries and we don’t have the capacity to compete favourably.
“We discover that there are a lot of conferences and trainings that we are supposed to benefit from so that we compete under a level playing ground with other African countries, not even talking about Europe and others.
“We discover that Ghana, Cameroon, Togo are moving ahead and they are very small countries. Nigeria is huge and so is its capacity, but we are having challenges,” she said.
She said that many maritime women could not attend the international conferences in 2022 and this year as well as the IMO, while about four people were sponsored from Ghana WISTA.
She noted that when they requested support from the Ministry of Transportation, they were informed that sponsorship for women associations had been cancelled by the federal government since 2019.
“So, how do we grow, pursue and execute our project because we have our Corporate Social Responsibility projects?
“We sensitise the girl-child about opportunities that are available in the maritime industry. How do we grow the industry for the gender, pursue advocacy for some cultural, social practices that inhibit the girl-child from pursuing career opportunities in the maritime industry?
“These are the challenges we are having and they are part of some we expect government to address and help us, especially the government bodies under the Ministry of Transportation for the women association to grow,” she said.
Ezeoke noted that networking was important and not just for women but for agencies, corporate bodies and organisations, to help the women associations to grow and impact as expected.