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Gender sensitive measures in the fisheries sector

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Gender sensitive measures in the fisheries sector

Since the beginning of the International Decade for Women in 1975, efforts have been made to improve the living conditions of women and to correct the imbalances between men and women. The approach concentrated on:

  • providing formal education, adult literacy classes, training and extension services;

  • providing informal education in child care, sanitation, and nutrition;

  • introducing improved technologies and methods to ease women’s burdens and increase their efficiency;

  • developing opportunities for more income-generating activities and access to credit; and

  • encouraging women to be active in community activities, decision-making, and project implementation and monitoring.

Such support activities have been directed to fishing projects for women in fishing communities. Fisheries projects have contributed to women developing and exercising leadership and sharing in decision-making that affects their future and that of their community.

Improvements in infrastructure

Some assistance has been directed to improving the technology and facilities available to women. The improvement in road and market infrastructure in several African countries has eased the burden on women in their marketing and distribution of fishery products. Some of the infrastructure development has been directed specifically at women. The improvements have shortened the travel time and transaction periods, which not only made their operations more efficient, but also gave them more time to take care of their families. The efficiency has increased their incomes which are spent mainly on food and other household needs. Technical and financial supports are important elements for domestic, social and economic activities. The support can be in technological research, extension and training, banking services, or credit facilities.

Management initiatives

Another way to get fisher-women actively involved is by introducing management initiatives into fishing areas used specifically by women. For example, implementing management strategies in mangrove areas, sandflats and lagoons along the shore can assist women to identify the types of species available, the changes affecting them and how these problems may be addressed. They will also be able to contribute to solving the identified problems by taking individual actions.


Women can also actively take part in national and regional networks of practitioners working in the area of community management. Through this forum there can be avenues for exchange of information and lessons learnt from the field.


Areas of research that could contribute to improving gender balance in the fisheries sector are:

  • Assessment of country needs, especially in gender aspects of fisheries management;

  • Documentation of traditional knowledge, institutions and skills on women’s participation in the fisheries sector;

  • Assessment and documentation of customary management systems and how these have changed/ or have been modified;

  • Fishing trends and seafood consumption patterns in rural coastal communities;

  • Development of success indicators from management projects already implemented;

  • An inventory of targeted species and distribution patterns at the local level; and

  • Assessment of factors that affect fish abundance and distribution and ways of addressing identified problems.


Aguilar, L, 2002. Fisheries and Aquaculture in Coastal Zones: Gender makes the Difference. Geneva: IUCN Briefing Notes.

Horemans, B.W, and A.M. Jallow (eds.), 1997. Report of the Workshop on Gender Roles and Issues in Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa, December 11-13 1996, Lomé. Cotonou: Programme for the Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa. IDAF/WP/97.

Available at:

Veitayaki, Joeli and Irene Noaczek, 2003. Filling the Gaps: Indigenous Researchers, Subsistence Fisheries and Gender Analysis, SPC Women in Fisheries Information, Bulletin #13, Available at:
Bennett, Elisabeth. Valette, Hélène Rey. Mäiga, Kassoum Yacouba. and Modesta Medard, 2004. Room to maneuver: gender and coping strategies in the fisheries sector. Available at:

Additional Resources
Aramanza Mandanda, 2003. Commercialization and Gender Roles among Lake Victoria Shore Fishing Communities of Uganda. Department of Women and Gender Studies Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Available at:
Houndékon, B.R., Tempelman, D.E. and A.M. Ijff, 1990. Report of round table meeting on women's activities and community development in artisanal fisheries (projects) in West Africa. IDAF Working Paper #30, Cotonou: Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa (IDAF) Project.
ICSF, 1997. Women First: Report of the Women in Fisheries Programme of ICSF in India – vol. 1, Chennai: International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (Samudra Dossier, Women in Fisheries Series No. 2).
Satia, B.P. and C.Z. Wétohossou, (eds.) 1996. Report of the Working Group on Women's Key Role and Issues Related to Gender in Fishing Communities. IDAF Working Paper

# 79, Cotonou: Programme for the Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa (IDAF).

Siar, S. V. and L. M. Caneba, 1998. “Women and the question of sustainable development in a Philippine fishing village,” International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 5(1), pp. 51-58.
Touray, I, 1996. Study on Women's Organisations in Brufut and Gunjur Communities and the Factors that Favour or Impede their Sustainability in the Gambia. IDAF Working Paper # 88, Cotonou: Programme for the Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries in West Africa.

Spanish Language Resources
Condiciones de trabajo adversas y un futuro incierto enfrenta mujeres trabajadoras en las plantas procesadoras de pescado, chilenas. (no date, author)

In this report it is explained in a quantitative way how workers, especially women, have bad working conditions in an industry that has grown extensively in the last years mainly in their production for exports.

Disponible en:

Trabajadoras versus modelo exportador: Las estrellas sin Brillo (no date, author)

La agroindustria y la salmonicultura son los sectores más dinámicos de la economía chilena. Sus utilidades alcanzan cifras que hipnotizan a los promotores del libre mercado. Sin embargo, sus cuantiosos retornos se explican por el bajo costo de la mano de obra que utilizan. Sus empleados, principalmente mujeres, son sometidos a tratos inhumanos, que vulneran los derechos más básicos consagrados en el Código del Trabajo.

Disponible en:
El papel de la mujer en la pesca. Comisión Europea. (no date)

The study addressed the promotion of equal opportunities and rights for men and women. The rationale for the study was to analyse gender mainstreaming in fisheries development by:

  • Examining the roles of women in the fisheries sector of the communities dependent on fisheries

  • Providing an analysis of the obstacles and the potential related to women’s contribution to the socio-economic development and diversification of these communities; and

  • Identifying ways and means for the promotion of equal opportunities for women in the fisheries sector.

Disponible en: (English)
Red Latinoamericana de las mujeres del sector pesquero.

This website promotes the sharing of information, experiences, knowledge and aims to develop specific projects related with women participation in this sector.

Disponible en:
Beltrán Turriago, Claudia Stella El rol de la mujer colombiana en la pesca y la acuicultura. Disponible en:^0@.ee738e8
Morales Flood de Ramos, Dra. María Esther, La mujer en la industria pesquera y acuicola ecuatoriana. Disponible en:

Ayala Galdós, María Estela. Situación de la mujer peruana en la pesca Disponible en:

Fernández, Sonia. La mujer en el sector pesquero uruguayo . Disponible en:
"Diagnóstico sobre la situación del trabajo femenino en el sector pesquero y acuícola argentino - Región Patagónica".Disponible en:
"Estudio de la Situación de la Mujer en el Sector Pesquero Uruguayo". Disponible en:
"Informe Preliminar de la Segunda Reunión de Puntos Focales de la Red Latinoamericana de las Mujeres del Sector Pesquero - Acuícola". Disponible en:
"Primera Reunión de Puntos Focales de la Red Latinoamericana de las Mujeres del Sector Pesquero - Acuícola" - Informe Final - 5 y 6 de octubre del 2000. Disponible en:

Key Web Sites
FAO The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger. The gender and food security page offers information on diverse subjects: agriculture, division of labor, environment, forestry, nutrition, fisheries, rural economies, population, and education.
ICSF-Women Program The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) is an international non-government organization that works towards the establishment of equitable, gender-just, self-reliant and sustainable fisheries, particularly in the small-scale, artisanal sector. ICSF draws its mandate from the historic International Conference of Fishworkers and their Supporters (ICFWS), held in Rome in 1984, parallel to the World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Case studies (check website
Gender and the Protection of Freshwater Resources, Tanzania

3.10. Gender and Coastal Zone Management

Sustainable coastal-marine zone management and conservation require a clear understanding of the differences and inequalities between women and men, because their needs and interests are often quite different in relation to aquatic resources. Access to and control over these resources, the resulting benefits and related decision-making are all differentiated by gender.

Gender Equality Issues Relevant in Coastal Zones

On the coast, as in many environments, both men and women play important but different productive, economic and social roles. There are differences in resource use patterns, access to land, natural resources, equipment, labour, capital, outside income, and education, and in the control that women and men exert over these resources (Anon, 1998 in van Ingen et al., 2002).

One of the most documented differences between the work of women and men in coastal zones is the segregated nature of the fishing industry. Studies show that men tend to fish offshore or in major inland water bodies, while women fish close to shore. Women tend to be more involved than men in post harvest activities, particularly in small-scale fisheries. These differences are important, as women’s tasks have often not been counted in economic analyses or received the same level of investment (for example, in terms of technological support, credit, or training). Women’s economic activities may also be more difficult to categorise than men’s. Women tend to juggle multiple activities (such as combining aquaculture with vegetable gardens or fish smoking), whereas men’s work is often clearly focused on one set of inter-related activities.
Women and men have also different access to and control over land and water in coastal zones. There may be conflicts between usufruct rights and legal rights or traditional tenure and formal tenure. Women tend to have access to land through male family members (husband, father, or brother), rather than hold titles in their own names. Tenure has proved to be important as it influences who can make formal decisions about land use, who is consulted on development plans, and who has access to other supportive services such as credit and extension services.
Often coastal zone management decisions are made without the perspective and leadership of female stakeholders and professionals. Women are still the minority decision-makers in political processes, because women tend to have less access than men to formal decision-making authorities and to local decision-making structures, including those related to coastal management.
In terms of environmental risks, it is important to highlight the increasing vulnerability of coastal zones, particularly for some women. For example, the Indian Ocean tsunami of late 2004 had different effects on women and on men, due to the strong gender-based division of labour of productive and reproductive activities in the areas it struck. Men have traditionally taken care of fishing and marketing, while women are responsible for fish processing. Therefore more men were away in the sea, while women were along the shores, resulting in a very high death toll for women and children. However, many relief and rehabilitation efforts continue to focus more on men than women. Understanding and measuring the gender differences is essential for an effective response. An age- and sex-disaggregated analysis of the composition of the survivors as well as the constraints to rehabilitating the livelihood options open to both genders will facilitate a sustainable response (AFPIC, 2005).

Mainstreaming Gender

Improving governance and planning

  • Planners can borrow tools from gender analysis to work with women and men to collect information on gender differences in resource use, access to decision making and community priorities. It is important not to stereotype men’s and women’s interests. Sex-disaggregated information must be collected and incorporated into coastal zone plans and projects. Often when women’s priorities are not included in programmes or projects they stop participating in them.

  • It is important also to expand civil society access to coastal governance. Gender and population issues bring new civil society partners to the table for coastal governance at local, national and international levels. However, capacity building may be necessary to make effective use of this access. For example, the Tambuyog Development Centre in Palawan, Philippines, provided leadership, public speaking, advocacy and environmental awareness training for rural women engaged in coastal management activities.

  • Changing resource use and management

  • In order to predict policy impacts, policy analysis and gender-related information will be needed on resource use and access, household demographics, migration, markets, employment and decision-making. With such information it is less likely that coastal zone policies will have a negative impact on women in general, and on those households headed by women.

  • Gender-based knowledge should be used for management of coastal resources. Female resource users often possess different knowledge about marine, coastal and estuarine biodiversity than men. In many countries, it is mostly women who are engaged in inland fishing. In Africa, women fish in rivers and ponds. In parts of India, women net prawns from backwaters. In Laos and Thailand, women fish in canals. In the Philippines, women fish from canoes in coastal lagoons. Collecting shellfish, seaweed, and coastal edible plants for people and cattle is the work of women, children and elderly women who all have useful biological knowledge.

Habitat Restoration Projects

As everyday users of resources, women can also easily identify changes to habitats, species abundance and distribution and can single out factors relating to these changes. Women can also be instrumental in all forms of habitat restoration. An initial point in most management initiatives has been the introduction of practical activities, in which the communities become involved. This is then expanded to other management initiatives. Habitat restoration can include mangrove re-planting, coral re-planting, shore vegetation re-planting, and other such activities. Regeneration at that level can then motivate involvement in wider management issues. In the coastal zone of Senegal, many initiatives on mangrove restoration are developed with women villagers in cooperation with international and regional conservation organisations such as the iucn and Wetlands International. Involvement of women in mangrove swamp restoration and maintenance, using their knowledge about biodiversity in these coastal ecosystems, will also benefit coastal households and enable sustainable costal zone management.

Diamond, N., Squillante, L. and Hale, L. Z. Cross, 2004. Currents: Navigating Gender and Population Linkages for Integrated Coastal Management. The University of Rhode Island’s. Coastal Resources Center. Available at:
FAO, 1998. “Integrated Coastal Area Management and Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries.” Environment and Natural Resources Service. Available at: .
Woroniuk, B. and J. Schalkwyk, 1998. Coastal zone management and equity between men and women. Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Available at:$file/12zones.pdf
van Ingen, T, Kawau, C. and S. Wells, 2002: Gender Equity in Coastal Zone Management: Experiences from Tanga, Tanzania. IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Programme.

Additional Resources
Aguilar, L. and Castañeda, I, 2001. About Fishermen, Fisherwomen, Oceans and Tides: A Gender Perspective in Marine-coastal Zones. San José, Costa Rica: IUCN-ORMA.
FAO, 2004. Gender and food security. Fact sheet on Fisheries. Available at:
Macalister, E, 2002. “The Role of Women in Fisheries”. DG Fish. European Union. TENDER FISH/2000/01-LOT No 1 Final report 1443/R/03/D Available at:
Mheen-Sluijer, van der J. and S. Sen, 1994. Meeting Information Needs on Gender Issues in Aquaculture. Field Document No. 33. ALCOM. Harare, Zimbabwe. Available at:

Key Web Sites
The Women’s Aquatic Network is a private, non-profit organization incorporated in 1985 in the District of Columbia to bring together women and men with interests in marine and aquatic policy, research, legislation, and other areas. WAN facilitates the interaction of women and men with interests in marine and aquatic affairs in an atmosphere that encourages information exchange; identifies individuals, groups, organizations, programs, and/or employment opportunities that could benefit members in their field(s) of interest and expertise and provides a forum for discussion of topical issues in marine and aquatic affairs.
The Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island is dedicated to advancing coastal management worldwide. In addition to assisting in the development and implementation of coastal management programs in Rhode Island and the United States, the Center is active in countries throughout the world promoting the sustainable use of coastal resources for the benefit of all.
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) was created in 1976 to fill gaps in understanding the complex realities of women's lives and their role in development. ICRW is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women in poverty, advancing equality and human rights, and contributing to broader economic and social well-being. ICRW accomplishes this, in partnership with others, through research, capacity building and advocacy on issues affecting women's economic, health and social status in low- and middle-income countries.

Case studies (check website

3.11. Gender, Climate Variability and Water-Related Disasters


All over the world natural climatic variability exacerbated by human-induced climate change are putting societies, particularly women, the poor and vulnerable, at greater risk.5 While drought and floods are seen as normal recurring features of our climate, their impact is heightened by human interventions such as the overexploitation of groundwater or construction of embankments in flood-prone areas, increasing population density and changing land use patterns arising from intensive agriculture, deforestation and the expansion of human settlements in hazard-prone areas. In areas subject to periodic drought and flooding, women and men have developed complex adaptive strategies, differentiated by gender, to cope with seasonal climate change, including spatial mobility, migration and institutional arrangements to manage water and land resources, crops and livestock diversification (Moench and Dixit, 1994; Yamin et al., 2005).

Understanding gender, vulnerability and disasters

Although poverty is a core dimension of vulnerability – all poor people are vulnerable – not all vulnerable people are poor (ActionAid, 2005: 7). Vulnerability is a more dynamic concept than poverty as it captures the changing degree of susceptibility to loss caused by exposure to disaster or unequal risk of individuals, communities and systems. The contextualization of climate change within everyday, overlapping “geographies of vulnerability” (Fordham, 1999) recognizes the role of pre-existing, interlocking systems of physical and social space in structuring vulnerability. These include: the location and nature of dwellings; access to physical infrastructure, information and communication systems; patterns of social capital; and the ability of different groups or individuals to secure alternative livelihoods and ensure the flow of resources – financial, social and political – to maintain livelihood security (Twigg, 2001).

Throughout the world, poor women, children and the elderly carry disproportionate ‘vulnerability bundles’ which place them in the highest risk category, even amongst communities marginalised by caste, ethnicity, race or religion (Wisner et al., 2004). Women’s differential work, lack of control over productive resources and limited access to common coping mechanisms such as formal credit facilities, (micro)-insurance, or survival skills (e.g. swimming in flood-prone areas) as well as restricted mobility (e.g. the practice of purdah or seclusion) heighten the impact of disasters for them. In addition, women’s rights are often violated in disaster processes when mitigation, relief and rehabilitation efforts do not consider the differential disaster impacts, capacities and needs across diverse social categories (Ariyabandu and Wickramasinghe, 2003: 45).

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