Regional Partners Voice Increasing Importance, Interests in Addressing Gender Equity in Fisheries at 3rd Technical Working Group Workshop
Since its launch in 2015, USAID Oceans has witnessed, first hand, a regional and international growing interest in the human welfare aspects of the fisheries sector. In July 2018, USAID Oceans convened its 3rd Annual Regional Technical Working Group (TWG) Workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, which brought together over 100 participants representing the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), and the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). This year, the workshop put a large emphasis on the human welfare and gender equity aspects of fisheries in response to overwhelming partner interest in how these aspects can be better studied and addressed. Human welfare and gender equity is a critical emerging area of interest in fisheries management. USAID Oceans advocates for its partners to identify and locate human welfare elements in the fisheries supply chain in order to promote human well-being, labor rights and conditions, gender equity, and to support a supply chain that provides strong returns for the community.
The workshop commenced with plenary sessions dedicated to reporting of the progress and achievements of the USAID Oceans program, one of which featured USAID Oceans’ partners that are supporting the program’s human welfare and gender equity objectives. Presentations were given by representatives from USAID Oceans and SEAFDEC, along with representatives from USAID Oceans’ newest grantees, the National Network on Women in Fisheries in the Philippines, Inc. (WinFish) and KELOLA. The panel presented key 2017-2018 accomplishments, including the program’s completion of learning site gender and labor analyses, and the application of lessons learned to the design of learning site gender intervention grants. Partners also highlighted the regional engagement happening with local, national and regional partners to catalyze dialogues and inclusion of human welfare in fisheries policy development.
At the workshop, panel sessions were also organized under the theme of “Surfacing the Human Dimensions of our Work.” A panel session was delivered by Dr. Heidi Schuttenberg, USAID Office of Forestry and Biodiversity ‘s Coastal Resources and Biodiversity Advisor, and three panel speakers from Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), Cambodia, and WinFish. The session was premised on the idea that the goals of fisheries management are unlikely to happen without thoughtful consideration of its human dimensions. Dr. Schuttenberg addressed the importance of women’s participation in fisheries in her remarks:
“ The FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] has reported that women make up only 15% of those directly involved in primary production (capture fisheries and aquaculture) but, in processing the figure goes up to 90%. Overall, FAO estimates the sector is approximately 50% women. Anecdotally, it is also known that women’s income from fisheries plays a very unique role as it is often the woman’s income that is paying for school fees, health care costs, etc.”
Dr. Schuttenberg stressed that women make a substantial contribution to the family expenses in a fishing household and proposed that actions should be taken to ensure that benefits are distributed for all fisherfolk and members of the fishing community, both men and women, throughout the value chain. She illustrated this through an example of a program in Ghana that helps women and their families to earn an income even during the closed fishing season by using financial mechanisms that allow women to know when the closed season is in order to save up in advance and learn processing techniques that will allow them to stockpile their fish to continue selling them.
Dr. Schuttenberg addresses the importance of women’s participation in fisheries. Photo: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
Dr. Marietta Sumagaysay, President of WinFish, followed by emphasizing importance of inclusion and recognition of women in fisheries management.
“Women are partners, not just beneficiaries; they are co-managers and teammates, and not just clients. Men and women need to be equal partners in decision-making to ensure that the practical and strategic gender needs of both men and women are recognized and properly addressed.”
She concluded with a remark on the importance of addressing gender equity in the fisheries value chain.
“We should heighten the discourse on engendered prosperity. Often, when we say prosperity, it is faceless or neutral, which defaults to men, so we [must] engender prosperity. When we look into the value chain, we need to carefully examine the gender differentials to understand the multiplicity of women’s burdens because if prosperity is not engendered, prosperity will be endangered.”
Dr. Sumagaysay stresses the importance of women’s inclusion and recognition in fisheries management. Photo: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
The TWG workshop received valuable contributions and inputs from participants. Recommendations were made on regional areas of priority that included capacity building, policy, financial access, and financial assistance to target issues of human welfare and social justice, with an emphasis on addressing labor and gender needs.
USAID Oceans’ Human Welfare and Gender Equity Specialist, Dr. Satapornvanit, facilitates a small-group session to gather inputs and recommendations on regional priorities to be addressed by USAID Oceans and beyond. Photo: USAID Oceans/Melinda Donnelly
In the sessions following, where participants addressed other program technical areas, such as electronic catch documentation and traceability, sustainable fisheries management, and public-private partnerships, ASEAN member state representatives continued to highlight key human welfare considerations; a demonstration of the transition of the human aspects of fisheries to the core of sector discourse and planning.