Gender in Fisheries

Women tend to a range of activities in fisheries and fishing communities, formal and informal, full-time and part-time, paid and unpaid. They are especially active in pre- and post-harvest activities. In several countries, inland fishing and aquaculture is mostly up to them.

Their roles are dynamic. In fish processing plants they are workers; in families they are caregivers; in the community they work tirelessly to maintain social networks and culture; they work in the non-fisheries sectors to supplement the household income, providing insurance against the often erratic returns from fishing.

They also participate in harvesting activities in many countries. Women made up 14 percent of about 60 million people engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture in 2018, FAO data shows. They marketed 60 percent of seafood marketed in Asia and west Africa. Still, a lack of data undermines women’s role in fisheries. Small-scale fisheries face discrimination as a sub-sector; within it, women face further marginalization.

Women experience the lack of basic facilities in markets and landing centres; they have limited access to education, healthcare, sanitation, credit and social protection (including social security). They are exposed to sexual violence and other forms of harassment. Often, their reproductive and productive work is not recognized. They are poorly represented in fishworker associations and organizations. They rarely have a say in the decisions of the family, the community and in the governance of their fisheries.

Which is why the feminist perspective seeks to reshape gender relations in fisheries. It asks questions. The gender perspective isn’t merely about women. It envisions a better man-woman relationship, as also an acknowledgement of women’s roles, rights and responsibilities. For this, there’s no one formula. Its realization must take into account conditions of culture, class, race, ethnicity, age and marital status.

The principle of gender equality and equity is endorsed in the SSF Guidelines as a means of strengthening small-scale fisheries.

Current Programmes

Asia Workshop: IYAFA 2022 -Celebrating Sustainable and Equitable Small-scale Fisheries - Session 3: Women and Gender in Small-scale Fisheries

Asia Workshop: IYAFA 2022-Celebrating Sustainable and Equitable Small-scale Fisheries

Need for gender equality in fisheries

Women play a large role in fisheries, but often their roles and contributions are invisible or not recognized. Women do fish (both on boats and without boats), sort fish, sell fish, process fish and cook fish for home consumptions. However, often women are not seen as “real” fishers and are excluded from fisheries organizations, do not have/ have less access than men to resources such as technology, loans, insurance and information. Women have responsibilities for household work and childcare that limits what they can do in fisheries. They often have less decision making power in the household and society. Some people might feel that women are not discriminated against, but the problem is that they are not even “discriminated”, since they are not even recognized as fishers and only seen as carrying out their duties to support the family... For more:

National Workshop: SSF Guidelines and Women in Fisheries, India, 8 to 10 April 2022

A national workshop will be held towards the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), through capacity building of women fishworker representatives towards the formation of a national platform of women in fisheries in India. The Workshop, to be held at Asha Nivas, Chennai, India, from 8 to 10 April, 2022 is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and organised by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) Trust. Key women fishworker representatives from the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will attend the Workshop. For more:


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Fortalecimiento de peladoras de camarón, Costa Rica

Strengthening collective action and capacity of the female shrimp peelers from Barra del Colorado, Costa Rica

Infographic video on SSF Guidelines: Gender Equity and Equality

Short animated video that wants to trigger awareness and discussion about gender equality in small-scale fisheries. One of the goals of the SSF Guidelines is helping to challenge gender-discriminatory laws,…

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