Women have long faced challenges and stereotypes in the maritime sector, often being marginalized and overlooked due to unfounded perceptions about their physical and mental capabilities. However, women in the industry are determined to shatter these stereotypes and compete on equal footing with their male counterparts.
In the Nigerian maritime sector, women’s active involvement in crucial roles, such as clearing processes, stands at less than 20 percent of the total licensed agents. Many of them are confined to roles like point-of-sale services, selling recharge cards, food vending, and making phone calls within the port vicinity.
This situation stems from societal beliefs that women lack the physical strength or mental acumen required for certain tasks, despite the fact that women are fully capable of performing any job. Recent developments in the maritime sector reveal that some ship-owners are hesitant to employ female seafarers, leading to many qualified women remaining unemployed while less qualified men are given opportunities.
Contrary to these biases, studies have shown that women often display greater diligence and commitment to their assigned duties when given the opportunity. The underrepresentation of women in the maritime sector may contribute to some of the challenges it faces.
Mrs. Rollen Macfoy, the Nigerian Chapter Chairperson of Women in Maritime Africa, emphasized the need for women to have equal opportunities in the sector. She called on the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, to prioritize capacity building for women and consider women in his appointments. Macfoy believes that empowering women in the industry will boost productivity and drive the sector forward.
Damilola Adebimpe, Vice President of the Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria, highlighted the challenges women face in the sector during the 2023 Lagos International Maritime Week. She pointed out that Nigerian ship-owners often deny female seafarers opportunities, citing inadequate facilities and biases. Adebimpe stressed the importance of advocating for gender equality in the maritime sector.
Macfoy reiterated the importance of empowering women in the sector to enable them to excel. She mentioned initiatives, such as offering scholarships to secondary school children interested in maritime careers, as well as supporting women in license renewals and job placements.
Eunice Ezeoke, the Nigerian Chapter Chairperson of Women in Shipping and Transport Africa, called for women to occupy leadership positions in government agencies, particularly in the maritime sector. She emphasized that women aspire to be policymakers, board members, and leaders in corporate organizations, in addition to their roles in environmental initiatives.
In summary, women in the maritime sector are actively advocating for equal opportunities, challenging stereotypes, and striving to make their mark in the industry. Their determination and efforts are paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse maritime sector in Nigeria.