Mrs. Jean Chiazor Anishere is a woman of many parts. Besides being the principal partner in a Lagos base law firm which specialises in maritime practice, an author and former President of WISTA Nigeria, Anishere is presently the President of Women in Maritime Africa (WIMAFRICA) which has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. In this exclusive interview with Maritime Bits Editor-in-Chief, John Iwori, Anishere bears her mind on the involvement of women in the maritime industry, challenges confronting women in African blue economy, barriers in the continental body and the way forward. Excerpts.
Can you please give me a peep into your background?
My name is Jean Chiazor Anishere. I am a legal practitioner and a notary public. I am also a publisher of books tilted: “Essays in Admiralty and Admiralty Law Reports”. I am the Principal Partner of Jean Chiazor and Company, a law firm which specializes in maritime practice and the President of Women in Maritime Africa (WIMAFRICA).
What will you consider as the main challenges that you met on assumption of office as the President of WIMAFRICA?
The main challenges I met as the President of WIMAFRICA upon assumption of office were funding for training programmes for members; funding for visitation within the continent to other WIMA nationals; as well as language barrier among member countries.
What measures are you putting in place in the short, medium and long term to tackle these challenges?
The measures I am putting in place in the short term to tackle these challenges are approaching government parastatals in Nigeria and international organizations, setting up a viable website for WIMAFRICA and undergoing special language classes in French and Portuguese.
What will you consider as your achievements as the President of WIMAFRICA?
As President of WIMAFRICA it is quite early to speak about achievements having been sworn-in about three months ago. However, it is heart-warming to note that within these three months as the President, WIMAFRICA won the award on blue economy at the Blue Economy Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. That was in November 2018. Secondly, we now have a viable website. I also seized the opportunity to discuss in Nairobi, WIMAFRICA’s handicap with international organisations such as the UNECA, IMO and the United Nations (UN). Some memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were also signed to this effect.
Not long ago, you handed over the reins of administration in WIMAFRICA, Nigeria in order to concentrate on your assignment at the continental level. If I may ask, do see your successor as having what it takes to carry on the baton from where you stopped?
Yes I handed over my portfolio as the President, WIMA Nigeria Chapter to my successor, Hajia Bola Muse, having been duly elected as such at a friendly election. This was meant to give me enough time to concentrate on my huge assignment at the continental level. I am certain that Hajia Bola Muse will steer the affairs of WIMA Nigeria brilliantly. There is no doubt about that.
How was your first day like on assumption of office at the continental level?
My first day on assumption of office at the continental level was hectic. We had to try to expand our frontiers to other countries such as Sierra Leone and Gabon. We also tried to fortify other nationals which were not doing well such as Mozambique and Kenya. It was hectic! Not forgetting also the language barrier.
In what ways are you encouraging more women to follow your footsteps, especially those outside the urban areas?
I am encouraging other women to follow my footsteps in urban areas and beyond by inviting them to join WIMAFRICA. This was successfully done when we were able to show activities lined up such as the promotion of the blue economy; empowerment of women in the maritime industry by creating employment opportunities; participating in the formulation of government policies. For example, we participated in the drafting of the Bill on Water related activities. Our activities actually speak volume and help us to encourage them to join us. Our other corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities also include reaching out to women in fishing communities. For instance, sometime in December 2018, we bought fish ovens for women in makoko fishing community in Lagos.
Since the appointment of Mrs. Mfon Usoro as the Director General of the National Maritime Administratio n and Safety Agency (NAMASA) and later Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) over a decade ago and Mrs. Chinwe F.O.Ezenwa as the Acting Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), women in the maritime industry seem to be holding the short end of the stick in terms of appointments into key parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transportation. What is WIMAFRICA doing to change this scenario?
WIMAFRICA has the Honourable Minister of Transportation as the Patron of WIMA Nigeria. This we are happy with it. We also have the ears of the Presidency of Nigeria, Togo, Angola, South Africa and Ghana. We hope to seize this opportunity to change the scenario whereby very few women are appointed in government parastatals.
You are noted for your brilliance, hard work, and doggedness in pursuit of your set goals. What do you think can be done at the national and continental level to inculcate same virtues in women, especially those in the maritime industry?
Thank you for your kind words and encomium. I believe that at the national, continental and international levels, women should be encouraged to learn, as continuous learning is a trait of good leadership particularly in the maritime industry. Also, it is important that women are encouraged to be visible in all relevant industry activities and playing key roles such that the strength of women would be brought to the fore.
As 2019 begins, what is your message for members of WIMAFRICA in particular and women in general?
Now that we are in a New Year, my message to members of WIMAFRICA is not to relent in their dreams and our mission statement which is the sustainability of the blue economy for Africa; knowing fully well that the blue economy policy is the economic lifeline, not only for every nation’s growth but the continental economic growth as well. This we can achieve when we join hands as a team and as one big family as WIMAFRICA. UBUNTU!!!