First Lady Asks MDAs to Achieve UN Goal on Gender Equality

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Eromosele Abiodun

The First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, has called on government agencies at all levels, especially those in the maritime industry to ensure the achievement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 5, aimed at attaining gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

The first lady made the call in Lagos yesterday as Nigeria joined the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other maritime countries of the world to celebrate this year’s Day of the Seafarers with the theme, “On Board with Gender Equality.”

Represented by wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, Buhari said the celebration focusing on women’s seafarers was very apt as it was in line with the federal government’s agenda on job creation and women empowerment, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari was desirous of seeing more women play more active role in the maritime industry.

According to her, “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’s 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 from 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.”

Buhari who commended the leadership of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for encouraging women to 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 welcome address, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside 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 his good will message, Executive Secretary, 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.

Bello, while calling for more participation of women in seafaring, also informed that only about two percent of the world seafarers are women.

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.”