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Advancing Gender Equality in Small-Scale Fisheries

By Katherine Burns

Across the board fisheries appear to be male-dominated. However, the role of women in small-scale fisheries is severely overlooked. Women engage in all parts of the process, and are often the backbones of the operation. According to an article from FAO, in some cases women own and finance their own boats and fishing operations. However, they face disparity when it comes to accessing the same resources as their male counterparts.

FAO estimates that 47% of the workers in the small-scale fisheries are women. This accounts for over 50 million jobs. However, for many reasons, including insufficiently managed infrastructure and pushback from larger-scale operations, small-scale fisheries have been marginalised significantly. Their voices need to be heard where policy making and legislation are concerned. In order to do that equitably, there needs to be female representation.

The work that women do as a part of small-scale fisheries can be severely overlooked because it’s not understood and valued appropriately. A 2015 study led by Angela Lentisco and Robert Lee explains that stereotypically, the division of labor paints men solely as fishers and women as marketers and salespeople.

“This generalisation has also made fisheries governance blind to women’s other valuable inputs to the sector. In fact, their roles can and should go beyond post-harvest and marketing. However, the lack of utilisation of their additional contribution has deterred, for example, women’s participation in fisheries resource management and policy decision-making.”

There are three central factors that Lentisco and Lee’s study identifies in order to make the fishing industry more equitable.

  1. Equal access to services

  2. Balanced ownership of assets

  3. Equal rights of use

They also outline that men and women alike should both be involved in the processing and marketing stages. This is key to community development. The work that fishing women do is oftentimes invisible, and must be recognised for the betterment of the sector, and fish-dependent communities as a whole.


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