Women are engaged in all aspects of our ocean, from fisheries to conservation. In Southeast Asia, women make up half of the fisheries workforce and play an important role in the sector. Promoting gender equity is therefore central to achieving sustainable oceans, fisheries and global food stocks.

Since its launch in 2015, USAID Oceans has witnessed and worked first hand with women in the sector who are paving the way for a more prosperous seafood industry, working to provide for their communities, creating more sustainable fisheries, and closing the gap toward achieving global priorities, like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This year, to celebrate and recognize World Oceans Day, USAID Oceans would like to share the work and impacts of several program partners who are preserving the future of Southeast Asia’s seas and oceans, and supporting those that depend upon them.

Marwiah Lahadji, Local Business Owner

Ms. Marwiah (right) is an entrepreneur in Bitung, Indonesia. Her business provides opportunities and sources of income for women in her community. Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/ Melinda Donnelly

Ms. Marwiah Lahadji is a fisheries enterprise owner from Bitung, Indonesia. In 1996, she started a business to buy and sell skipjack tuna and through this business has become a leader in the community, providing employment to other women who otherwise depend on their husband’s unpredictable fishing incomes. Ms. Marwiah is an avid entrepreneur, always pursuing new markets for her products to keep up with skipjack prices that have risen over the years due to limited supplies and growing international demand. Ms. Marwiah has supported USAID Oceans’ activities since 2016, contributing to the program’s gender and labor research in North Sulawesi Indonesia, serving as a panelist in local program-organized workshops and events, and hosting several learning exchange site visits for the program’s regional partners to learn about women’s critical roles in Indonesia’s fisheries. Learn more about Marwiah.

Laos People’s Democratic Republic (PDR)
Dongdavanh Sibounthong, Lao Department of Livestock and Fisheries’ (DLF)

Ms. Dongdavanh has been actively advocating for gender inclusiveness in fisheries management and development in Laos and other Mekong countries. Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly

Ms. Dongdavanh Sibounthong is the Head of the Fisheries Resource Management Section for the Lao Department of Livestock and Fisheries and an active member of the USAID Oceans Technical Working Group. Ms. Dongdavanh has played an important role in advancing the development of fisheries in Lao PDR that are conscious of human and gender variables. Ms. Dongdavanh has been an advocate for Laos, as well as other Mekong countries, in receiving capacity building support for gender inclusive fisheries management and development. With USAID Oceans, she has arranged two trainings over 2018 and 2019 to build national and regional capacity in this area, and has contributed to Laos PDR being a regional leader in this regard. Learn more about Laos’ capacity building work with USAID Oceans.

Dr. Marieta Sumagaysay, National Network on Women in Fisheries in the Philippines, Inc. (WINFISH)

Dr. Sumagaysay has actively been working to advance WINFISH’s mandate to “create a gender-fair society and a gender-responsive fisheries sector.” Photo Credit: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly

Dr. Marieta Sumagaysay is a leader of the National Network on Women in Fisheries in the Philippines (WINFISH) and actively works to help the organization achieve its mandate to “create a gender-fair society and a gender-responsive fisheries sector.” Dr. Sumagaysay has worked with USAID Oceans and its partners to conduct extensive research on gender and human welfare in the Philippines, and has extensive experience in engaging local communities to raise awareness of women’s roles in fisheries and improve their opportunities for advancement. In March 2019, WINFISH was officially awarded a grant from USAID Oceans to promote gender equity and women’s empowerment in fisheries management in its learning site of General Santos City, Philippines. Learn more about Ms. Marieta and WINFISH’s work with USAID Oceans.

This World Oceans Day, USAID Oceans celebrates and recognizes changemakers, like these, across the Asia-Pacific region working to conserve its oceans and enhance its livelihoods.


For more information on how you can be a part of this change, download USAID Oceans’ training resources for gender and human-needs inclusive fisheries management and development.

Assessing Fisheries in a New Era: Extended Guidance for Rapid Appraisals of Fisheries Management Systems

Gender Research in Fisheries and Aquaculture: A Training Handbook (also available in Thai)