Empowering Young Women for the Blue Economy  

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Mary Nnah writes that the recently held Leadership and Career Empowerment Programme was an avenue for young women to seize opportunities in the blue economy and contribute to the development of the sector 

 

In a bid to change the situation where most sectors of the economy are controlled and peopled by men, MMS Plus Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) recently brought together young women from various fields of the economy to brainstorm on how and why more women should be involved in the ‘Blue Economy’. 

As postulated by the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.” Simply put, the event was put together to encourage young African women to take an active economic role in the maritime sector – from shipping, maintenance and port services to financing, among other sectors of the country’s economy.

The two-day event, which was held at the MMS International Image Centre, Festac Town, Lagos, provided free but thorough training for the participants and it explored digital media, blue economy, oil and gas, visual content production and entrepreneurship, which are money-spinning sectors that the nation is yet to optimally explore.

Over 50 Nigerian women ranging from senior secondary school students to undergraduates in tertiary institutions as well as career workers in civil service and private sector participated in the second edition of Women in Leadership and Career Empowerment Programme (WILCEP) organised by MMS Plus WoFHoF as part of efforts to contribute to the development of the female brand in the country.

 

Key Roles for Women

 

While addressing the participants, the Secretary, Nigerian Chapter the of African Women in Maritime (WIMA), Mrs. Rollens Macfoy,  admonished young women to seize opportunities in the blue economy. She also encouraged them to identify opportunities to develop a sustainable, integrated maritime sector, which will create jobs – both directly and indirectly.

Macfoy, who presented a paper titled, “Optimising the opportunities in Blue Economy”, stressed that 70 per cent of earth’s resources were underneath the seas, adding that a greater portion of the wealth from the seas and oceans remain untapped. Macfoy, who represented the WIMA Nigeria President, Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere, also charged the young women to be resilient in their drive to be successful, adding, “nothing of immense value or success can be attained from a position of discouragement.”

She said, “As a young lady who intends to be successful in life, you can’t be in the university and your primary concern is to fix a weave-on of N15, 000. If you can afford to spend lavishly on such items, you can as well start paying your school-fees. That’s my philosophy. My daughter is here, she is a 200-level student of Crawford University and she can attest that I always tell her about the need to make money and be financially prudent. I tell her that she has to work.”

She was of the view that women have a key role to play in addressing the longstanding neglect of oceans in Nigeria, noting that it is high time women started focusing on this underdeveloped area and be part of that development.

 

Utilising Opportunities

 

On the need to take up opportunities in the blue economy, Macfoy who is the CEO of OceanDeep Services Limited, said, “When we talk about blue economy don’t despair, it’s not a job for some specific set of people, neither is it anybody’s patent right. You can study on your own and even online and you would surely rise to the top. I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years and my focus and drive has placed me where I am today.”

She explained, “I visited several Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) waiting from 8am-5pm just to see the CEO. I repeated this for about two weeks at a stretch before taking a break from that company to face other businesses, but I returned months later and most times I got the job. There was a job I chased for one year and three months but I eventually got the contract. That contract runs for another two years and since I got it, I have been smiling to the bank monthly. How do you convince me to stop? Why do you allow yourself to be discouraged? The real you is ‘the person’ you intend to be in the next 10 years and that should spur you to work more now. What do you intend to tell your classmates when you meet in 10 or 20 years?” 

 

Digital Media Exposition

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Ayomide Akerin, a digital marketing strategist and trainer with Edubridge Consultants, exposed the participants to the numerous opportunities in the digital media, ranging from online marketing, website design, blogging, programming and coding and utilising social media as a tool for earning revenue, among others. Akerin stressed that digital skills and the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) was crucial to the development of several businesses in Nigeria and Africa, while the industry also provided enormous employment opportunities as well as technological innovations.

He went on to state that the class of people who would find it difficult to survive wouldn’t be those without money but those who would be unable to flow with the modern changes and utilisation of technologies. Speaking further, the ICT trainer stated that most developed countries had been exploring digital technologies and strategies in several ways, while Africa was yet to fully embrace the initiative.

“Nigerians, especially the young ones must be encouraged to learn and explore the opportunities in digital media for the fiscal benefits and to grow the nation’s economy. The point is that we are in the age of digital technology and the good thing is that we have contents like artificial learning and it tells us how much technology is changing the way we do things,” he stated.

 

Presentations 

 

The Group Executive Director/ Company Secretary, Masters Energy Group, Mrs. Patience Dappa, presented a paper titled: “Making a Career in Oil and Gas Industry: Prospects and Challenges”. Dappa was represented at the event by Managing Director, FirstUnion Excel Limited, Mr. Mahmud Dawodu. 

Other papers presented at the event include: “Becoming skilled in Visual Content Production, Graphics, Video Editing and Photos,” by Mr Kazeem Aweh. Mr. Mathias Nwabueze, an entrepreneur and life coach, presented a paper on “Entrepreneurship: Building New Power Base of the Economy”.  Also x-rayed was what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur globally while limitations, especially in the Nigerian context and how to overcome them were discussed.

 

Bridging the Gender Gap

 

In his opening address, Founder, MMS WoFHoF Initiative, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke, emphasised the importance of investing in women and promoting the female brand. He described women as loyal, dedicated, committed and productive when given assignments to handle.

Anaroke said although it might take more than just a motivated resistance to overturn years of systemic gender inequality and create opportunities for more female to be involved in the Blue Economy, employing a few key strategies can help bridge the gender gap and move the sector toward greater gender balance.  

He recalled that the maiden edition of the WILCEP conference produced a book titled, “Mentorship: The Link to Effective Leadership”. The book is a collection of the presentation of talented women who told intriguing stories about their lives at the maiden WILCEP event in 2017, with their experiences chronicled into a guide for effective leadership across various sectors. 

The founder stressed that the WILCEP initiative with the theme, “Optimising the Blue Economy and Digital Media Skills for Wealth Creation”, was created to enhance the capacity of young Nigerian women by giving them one-on-one mentorship opportunities with successful women, adding that the 2018 edition provided opportunities for skill acquisition in digital media and opportunities in blue economy.

 

Lessons

 

One of the participants at the training, a 300-level student in the department of Business Education, Federal College of Technical Education, Akoka, affiliated to the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Ms. Akinwande Oluwatosin, said she was thrilled to have learnt so much from the conference.

She said, “This initiative by MMS Plus WoFHoF was a very good one and today’s programme was about blue economy and digital media. These were areas that are relatively novel to me. I haven’t paid attention to these issues on the blue environment. I wasn’t aware of the immense opportunities in the water let alone know that one can make money from things like waste recycling.

“I also learnt that success and monetary benefits come from identifying needs in the society and meeting these needs, the solution to the problem/need is what brings monetary reward. I also learnt a lot from the ICT training, such as how to create websites and use the social media to make money, promote businesses; I know what to demand from the website designer because I know the details a good website must have.”

The schools which participated in the programme include Unique Toes Mission Secondary School, Badagry; Grace Polytechnic, Surulere; UNIBEN FCET Chapter; and Federal College of Technical Education (FCET), Akoka, while a delegation of female leaders at the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Council and Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA) Lagos State, graced the occasion.