Charting a Blossoming Path: Eunice Ezeoke’s Remarkable Voyage in the Maritime Realm

In the vast expanse of the maritime industry, where men have historically held the reins, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke is shattering stereotypes and making waves of change. A visionary leader and the driving force behind the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, with over 35 years of experience in the maritime sector, Mrs. Ezeoke’s journey is one of empowerment, and advocacy for gender inclusivity in leadership roles. As the President of WISTA Nigeria, she has spearheaded initiatives that have transformed the lives of women within the industry and beyond.

The Journey Begins

MrsEunice Ezeoke’s voyage in the maritime industry commenced immediately after her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program. She started by working in various ports across Nigeria, where she gained practical knowledge and experience in the operations and management of port activities. Her dedication and exceptional performance in her role caught the attention of industry professionals, setting the stage for her future accomplishments. In 2012, Mrs. Ezeoke made a significant move by establishing the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Port Harcourt chapter. WISTA is a global organization that aims to promote and empower women in the maritime, trading, and logistics sectors. As the founder of the Port Harcourt chapter, Mrs. Ezeoke played a pivotal role in bringing together women professionals in the maritime industry, fostering a supportive network, and advocating for gender equality and opportunities.

In 2016, Mrs. Ezeoke’s skills and leadership abilities led to her appointment as the Vice President of WISTA Nigeria, based at the Lagos Port Complex. In this role, she assumed greater responsibilities and worked closely with other members of WISTA Nigeria to advance the organization’s objectives. As Vice President, Mrs. Ezeoke actively participated in promoting WISTA’s initiatives, organizing events, and supporting the growth and development of women in the maritime industry.

During her time at the Lagos Port Complex, Mrs. Ezeoke actively engaged with industry stakeholders, including government agencies, port authorities, and industry associations. Her goal was to raise awareness about the importance of gender diversity and inclusion in the maritime sector and advocate for policies and practices that would facilitate the advancement of women professionals.

Through her dedication and contributions, Mrs. Ezeoke has become a respected figure in the maritime industry, known for her commitment to empowering women and breaking barriers. Her journey from her early days in various ports to establishing WISTA Port Harcourt and assuming the role of Vice President of WISTA Nigeria demonstrates her relentless pursuit of progress and her efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable industry for women.

Empowering Women in Maritime

WISTA, an acronym for Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, operates as an international professional association with Nigeria being one of its 58 National WISTA Associations. WISTA Nigeria aligns its goals with those of WISTA International, primarily focusing on minimizing gender gaps in leadership across the maritime, trading, and logistics sectors.

Under Mrs. Ezeoke’s leadership, WISTA Nigeria has made remarkable strides in empowering women through their programmes like Mentoring Programs by supporting maritime and law students at renowned institutions such as Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Lagos, Sea-Time Training and Job Placement Assistance, by offering Scholarships and Cash Awards. WISTA Nigeria also support rural fisherwomen: WISTA Nigeria extends its support beyond academic institutions and also focuses on empowering rural fisherwomen, they also provide training programmes and sensitisation Initiatives.WISTA Nigeria organizes an annual business luncheon that serves as a platform to showcase the visibility of women in the maritime industry. The event brings together industry professionals, stakeholders, and government representatives to discuss pertinent topics, exchange ideas, and recognize the achievements of women in the sector.

Challenges and Advocacy

Despite the progress made, Mrs. Ezeoke acknowledges the significant challenges faced by women in the sector. These obstacles include underrepresentation in leadership roles, gender biases, limited networking opportunities, and socio-cultural barriers. WISTA Nigeria addresses these challenges through capacity-building programs, awareness campaigns, and collaboration with industry organizations such as the Association of Lady Seafarers, WIMA, and WIMOWCA. One of the pivotal partnerships that WISTA International, in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has established is the Maritime Speakers Bureau. This initiative aims to promote and showcase female speakers from various National WISTA Associations, highlighting their talents, expertise, and experiences. The Bureau’s recent recognition with The Crew Welfare Diversity & Inclusion Award 2023 highlights the impact of such endeavors.

Meanwhile, WISTA Nigeria organizes capacity-building programs to equip women in the maritime sector with the necessary skills, knowledge, and confidence to excel in their careers. These programs focus on leadership development, technical training, and professional advancement. By enhancing the capabilities of women in the industry, WISTA Nigeria aims to bridge the gender gap and promote equal opportunities for career growth.

The association also conducts awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of gender equality, diversity, and inclusivity within the maritime sector. These campaigns raise awareness about the challenges faced by women and the benefits of a more gender-balanced industry. By promoting dialogue and advocating for change, WISTA Nigeria aims to challenge gender biases and stereotypes that hinder women’s progress in the sector.

Mrs Ezeoke also ensures WISTA Nigeria collaborates with various industry organizations, such as the Association of Lady Seafarers, Women in Maritime Africa (WIMA), and Women in Maritime West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA). These collaborations enable the sharing of best practices, knowledge exchange, and joint initiatives to address common challenges faced by women in the maritime industry. By working together, these organizations can amplify their impact and advocate for positive change.

Regarding WISTA International’s collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), one of the pivotal partnerships she established is the Maritime Speakers Bureau. This initiative aims to promote and showcase female speakers from different National WISTA Associations, providing them with platforms to share their talents, expertise, and experiences. The Bureau highlights the wealth of knowledge and skills possessed by women in the maritime industry and seeks to challenge the underrepresentation of women as industry experts and speakers. The recognition of the Maritime Speakers Bureau with The Crew Welfare Diversity & Inclusion Award 2023 demonstrates the positive impact of this initiative. The award acknowledges the Bureau’s efforts in promoting diversity, inclusion, and gender equality within the maritime sector. It recognizes the importance of providing opportunities for women to share their perspectives and contribute to industry discussions and decision-making processes. By partnering with organizations like the IMO and participating in initiatives like the Maritime Speakers Bureau, WISTA International and its National Associations, including WISTA Nigeria, aim to create more visibility for women in the maritime industry, break down barriers, and drive positive change towards a more inclusive and equitable sector.

Mrs. Ezeoke’s leadership has propelled WISTA Nigeria to achieve significant milestones. The association has secured an office accommodation, organized successful annual business luncheons, and published WISTA Magazine for consecutive years. WISTA Nigeria’s chapters in Abuja and Port Harcourt continue to flourish, and the establishment of the Kaduna chapter further expands the organization’s reach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WISTA Nigeria played an active role in supporting port workers, dock workers, and seafarers by arranging and distributing palliative supplies.