SDG 5 the United Nations goal that encompasses gender equality and women’s empowerment is far from being met in the fisheries environment has been so far dramatically overlooked by private and public stakeholders. The focus of the fisheries expert communities is on Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water – .
This complex subject and its ability to contribute to sustainability and be affected by it, are largely misunderstood. Thus in preparation to the FAO International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability (Nov 2019) we wish to share with you the key elements of the role of gender equality in a “sustainable blue economy”. As you know, one in two seafood workers is a woman and therefore the Symposium will need to address the essential issues of
Marine Resource Mismanagement
- Wrong marine resource diagnosis
- Fishing activities led by women
are often ignored and not recognised so that their fishing effort is not taken
into account in fisheries management, they are not counted in fishing
statistics and their knowledge is not incorporated in the diagnoses. Little
effort is being made at national and international levels to remedy the very
poor state of sex-disaggregated statistics.
- Marine resource decisions are
mainly made based on information for the production segment of the value chain,
ignoring the strong drivers in the pre-harvest and post-harvest segments, which
also are the segments where women work.
- Wrong economic assessment
- Invisible unpaid or underpaid
auxiliary work allows fishing activities by men to continue even when the
activity is not profitable (mending nets, net making, administration, selling);
Women’s labour can be considered as hidden subsidies.
- Public policies and marine
management tools are constructed in the absence of data describing the number
of fishing women and their fishing effort and ignoring in most cases the level
of their unpaid contribution,
- Wrong uses of knowledge and
- Women in this business have
expertise and information that are not utilised due to their absence during
management policy making.
- Wrong outcomes of
- Ignoring women’s knowledge can
result in inadvertently disadvantaging them when policy and management
decisions are made, such as in assistance and adjustment measures and
- In the context of climate
change, the adaptation challenge requires urgently a proper diagnosis and the
involvement of the players so-far ignored, the women.
Gender Inequality in fisheries and aquaculture
- Women do not enjoy equal
conditions and are slowed down when carrying out their work
- Impediments to accessing inputs
such as capital, bank loans, new technology and training.
- Stereotypes and social norms
and sometimes laws, prevent women from accessing some jobs, for example, fisherwomen
are not recognized as professionals in many countries and cannot become members
of professional organisations.
- Discrimination can prevent
women from accessing high profile and well paid jobs in the seafood industry. Women
represent at most 10% of board members, 1% of CEOs.
- Family burdens lie disproportionately
on women shoulders where taking care of family members is time consuming and
costly, leaving fewer resources for women’s own work.
- Low wage jobs and significant gender
pay gaps with men are common, as are cases where women work in fisheries
service roles without remuneration.
- Reports show that women, who
occupy 90% of all jobs in the labour intensive seafood processing industry,
commonly suffer discrimination, violence, sexual harassment and poor working
In view of these points, the social
dimension of the fisheries industry is very far from reaching SDG 5.
What is needed first and foremost is an
awareness that SDG 14 will not be attained if 50% of the population it affects
is not taken into consideration. Gender must be embedded in all elements and
targets of SDG 14, Laura Liswood Secretary-General, Council of Women World
What can FAO do to help gender equality in fisheries and aquaculture? We suggest that FAO and its member countries take three key actions:
- Place gender on the FAO
Committee on Fisheries (COFI) agenda and use the
COFI meeting to develop a strategy for mainstreaming gender equality in FAO
programmes and in statistics, policies and international instruments. FAO can
build on, improve and extend its experience with the Voluntary Guidelines
Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the
Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication that does recognize the
importance of gender equality.
- Redesign fisheries and
aquaculture data collection to encompass
sex-disaggregated statistics for the whole of the fish value chain,
including those segments where women are most active.
- In fisheries, reinvent the
25 year old Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the world’s most
revered instrument guiding fisheries, to incorporate gender equality.
Beside the FAO, every one of us can play a part in making sustainable fisheries inclusive of SDG5. If you want to participate to this movement, please contact us.
Marie Christine Monfort, President, Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI) firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Meryl J Williams, PhD FTSE (Australia): email@example.com
Natalia Briceno-Lagos, Project manager WSI: firstname.lastname@example.org