The Female Seafarers’ Association of Nigeria (FESAN) has urged government to create and enforce policies that support the inclusion of at least 1% of female seafarers on board ships trading in the country.
This call comes as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) says only 2% participation of women is recorded in the maritime industry worldwide.
A survey by FESAN made available to TNMN showed that of its 196 members, 122 female cadets are awaiting the mandatory sea time.
Members of FESAN in an exclusive interview with Maritime TV at the weekend said that in spite of their trainings, the industry has been very slow at receiving them.
Members of the Female Seafarers Association of Nigeria (FESAN) on Live Conversations- a Show by Maritime TV at the weekend
Mrs. Angela Isidahomhe, an Executive of FESAN recounting her over ten years experience as a seafarer said that government policies, which promote active women participation, would create awareness for the younger generation and employment for women who are currently qualified.
“We do not have many females in the industry especially here in Nigeria when compared to our male counterparts and we are out to create awareness. Sometimes you hear cases of people saying they are not aware of females in the industry and that is why we formed FESAN.
“In Nigeria, I think it is a cultural thing. People would say: “You are a woman, what are you doing in a man’s job?” Some funny questions like that. During my days of sourcing for cadetship, I remember there was a place I went to source for placement and they looked at my qualifications and said: “Ooh, you are good but we do not want a woman on board”. There is a stereotype against women and this was as far back as 2009,” she said.
Speaking also on the stereotyping of women in the industry, a beneficiary of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), Ms. Danke Danjuma, said that after obtaining a First Class in Marine Engineering from an institution abroad, she has been unable to secure a job because she is perceived as being weak when compared to the male counterparts by crewing agents.
“I am not employed because I have not been able to get placement on board. Majority of times, I have been to crewing agents and companies and the major response I get is: “We do not have cabins for females on board this vessel” for certain reason which they do not let us in on.
“I am constantly under the pressure of proving myself. The major challenge I had was seeking for placement on board. I have had an experience when a crew manager saw me and said; “You are too tiny, look at your hands. You look fragile and tender. Are you sure you can hold a spanner? Are you sure you can hold a screw…?” but because of my passion and determination in this career that I have chosen, I want to prove myself. Employers doubt that I can do the practical work, but I am trained to, I can.” she said.
On sexual harassment, the seafarers said that the absence of punishment for offenders is the reason it has persisted.
According to Ms. Dise Youdeowei, another beneficiary of the NSDP, part of the problems women encounter is the bias in punishing misbehaviour among crew-members.
“There are some nasty comments that we women are the problems at sea. Maybe because we are just one or two women in the midst of twenty men and they think, ‘oh, that is the target’. When one is not forthcoming, they start to spite one for no reason and are unable to work with the person.
“The first rule we learnt in school is that the fault of one is the fault of all. So, why would I be at fault because I am saying no to a man? And then when some people end up being forthcoming they say we are the problem because a particular girl is causing friction between two men on board a vessel.
“So because of that, stakeholders are withdrawn to allow us in because there is no punishment for misbehaviour for the men. Most of the times when there is sexual harassment on board a vessel, it is the females that end up suffering for it,” Youdeowei said.
Ms Happiness Ikeru, an ex-beauty queen and student at the College of Fisheries while recounting her reign as queen said she did not encounter any form of sexual harassment, however she has been repeatedly advised to withdraw from studying Nautical Science as there is no place for females in the maritime sector.