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Women’s economic empowerment in fisheries in the blue economy of the Indian Ocean Rim: A Baseline Report - Draft
  • :ICSF
  • :2019
  • :111

Women’s economic empowerment in fisheries in the blue economy of the Indian Ocean Rim: A Baseline Report - Draft

This report provides a baseline analysis of women’s economic empowerment in the fisheries sector in the blue economy of the Indian Ocean rim region. The report focuses on the 22 Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and includes both marine and inland fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

IORA is an inter-governmental organization aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. IORA Member States share a common coastline along the Indian Ocean Rim, and fishing is a traditional activity in the region with many countries having well developed inland and marine fishery sectors. IORA has therefore identified the goal of growing the blue economy in a sustainable, inclusive and people-centered manner as one of its special focus areas, with fisheries and aquaculture included among six priority pillars.

Women constitute nearly half of those employed in fisheries globally (HLPE, 2014). In many IORA countries, women engage in various types of fish harvesting activities, fishing and gleaning usually in nearshore and inter-tidal zones. Women are predominant in the post-harvest sector in both small-scale and industrial processing in most IORA countries.

The fisheries is a traditionally male dominated sector where women’s contributions are greatly devalued. Women’s work in fisheries and aquaculture lacks formal recognition and women are vastly underrepresented in policy and decision-making. Women fishers contribute significantly to household income and food security, and their economic contributions are often the mainstay of family and community sustenance. The active engagement of women in representation and leadership also contributes to better efficiency, and more sustainable fishery practices. The economic empowerment of women is therefore not an issue of social justice alone, but also important for sustainable economic growth within fisheries.

The role of women is particularly significant in poor countries where livelihood options are limited. Over three-fourths of the population living in the IORA region is concentrated in its poorer nations where the per capita income is less than half that of world average per capita income levels in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. Women’s waged work in industrial fishing and in other sectors sustains families and communities when traditional fishing is undermined by competition, various man-made conflicts, and environmental degradation due to climate change and disasters.

The lack of formal recognition of women’s work extends to government policy in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. This lack of recognition is the chief cause of women’s exclusion from government programmes and schemes, and from regulation of their work. This exclusion extends to data collection and analysis of fisheries, in turn, resulting in the further marginalisation of women from sectoral policy, programmes and activities of governments, the private sector and civil society organisations.

This report urges States to recognise the importance of the traditional and small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sector for sustainable and equitable development, and to formally recognize the central role played by women. It therefore recommends coherence within government policy to ensure that the fisheries sector and women’s activities therein are prioritised. It urges State agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations to ensure that programmes for the sector, including technology development, research and data collection, mainstream gender into their priorities and outcomes.