Women in aquaculture and fisheries
The “blue economy” is becoming an important part of the development agenda, focusing on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs, while preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystems.
But gender is still rarely a focus, even as growing fisheries industries and climate change threaten increased poverty and household burden for women who are commonly found working in smaller areas of the industry. The 7th Global Conference on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries, held in Bangkok this week, hopes to change that.
“For women in developing countries, fisheries are very important,” said Meryl Williams, chair of the gender and aquaculture fisheries section of the Asian Fisheries Society and co-chair of the organizing committee.
“But women are commonly not even counted in fisheries statistics. We don’t know how many there are, where they are and if their numbers are going up and down. The database is so weak it is hard to know the basics,” she said.
Why a focus on women is needed
Natasha Stacey, associate professor at the Charles Darwin University Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, has delved into development projects to assess how they identify and support needs of men and women in aquaculture and fisheries. Focusing on 20 coastal livelihood projects implemented in Indonesia over a period of 20 years, Stacey found that gender was low on the priority list. Even gender awareness training was low.
“Out of 20 projects only 15 percent implemented gender awareness training,” she explained to Devex. “A lot of projects would identify men and women as beneficiaries, but not many focused
specifically on women. And 40 percent had no clear gender focus.”
The problem, Stacey explained, is that without a strong focus on women, it is very hard to improve types of livelihood outcomes they need, and can even disadvantage them.
“In Eastern Indonesia, a program came in, and in consultation with senior men in the community, they decided to move the fish landing area some kilometers away from the village.
This meant that the women had to walk and transport fish a lot further – and negatively impacted them.” Stacey’s work highlights the need for a greater focus on women for sustainable development outcomes.
Strategies for identifying and recording the role of women
Among the strategies to be discussed at the global conference this week are the use of photos and comments by research participants to tell their own stories – known as photovoice, a fast, cost-effective, and high-impact research method.
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