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Issue No.56
  • :January
  • :2018

From the Editor

More than three years since the endorsement of the SSF Guidelines in June 2014, it is important to recall that these Guidelines, the first internationally recognised instrument for the small-scale fisheries sector, expressly call upon all stakeholders to adopt strategies to promote gender mainstreaming in the fisheries. It is important to ask, how are women in fishing communities articulating their demands in the context of the SSF Guidelines?

Women in fish processing and trade in many parts of the world are increasingly getting organised and networked to build capacity and entrepreneurial capabilities. The current issue brings together many such examples: from the Caribbean, of women fishers’ organisations working towards networking, representation and capacity building; from Africa, of women across several fishing nations networking to build capacity, adopt best practices and increase their incomes, while also advocating for more gender responsive fisheries policy; from Europe, of the women’s network AKTEA campaigning for equal rights for women in fisheries as well as for sustainable fishing practices.

However, we see that even today, in many parts of the developed world, especially in fish harvesting, the contribution of women tends to get ignored, and they do not share equal rights with men. In Norway, the number of women registered as full-time fishers was the highest in 1990, and has consistently declined since then. Low female workforce participation means low participation in fisher associations, leading to gender blind fishing policies. We read in this issue that it was only after they were recognised as professional fishers that women shellfish harvesters in Galicia were spurred to organise. At first organising independently but with affiliation to the fishermen’s organisations, in time, these women were even able to gain leadership positions in the predominantly male cofradias. Formal recognition of women’s work is thus often necessary to mobilise and build organisation, and allow women’s leadership to emerge.

While formal recognition of women’s work is of critical importance, without family and domestic support, women would find it difficult, if not impossible, to stand up to community taboos and policy indifference. In this context, the story of K.C. Rekha, who, with her husband’s support, became India’s first deep sea fisher, is particularly heartening.

Another important enabling condition for women is access to simple technology and local data, particularly in today’s context of environmental degradation, climate change and increasing encroachment of the seas by other stakeholders. The article on beach profiling in Tamil Nadu, India, highlights the importance of fishing communities taking control of such access. It brings out how women of the community can work with the men to master simple techniques towards building local data to support their own struggles for coastal rights.

All the articles in this issue thus represent examples of gender mainstreaming in different contexts, whether by external inputs of capacity building or by women’s self-organisation or through access to simple technologies, with family support being crucially important. For the local implementation of the SSF Guidelines to be truly gender sensitive, lessons learnt from such diverse global contexts are of great significance.

Profile

K.C. Rekha: Seagoing Fisherwoman from Kerala, India

Dream Big, the Sea is the Limit

By Amrutha K.J. (amruthakj94@gmail.com ), Student, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Calicut University, India

Taking a road less travelled is not easy. Sometimes the whole of society stands against you. But no such fear deterred Rekha K.C. of Koorkenchery, a village in the Thrissur district of Kerala, India, the first woman in the country to go fishing in the deep waters of the outer sea. Amidst prevailing social stigmas, 45-year-old Rekha has been fishing in these waters with her husband Karthikeyan for ten years. “Although the sea is considered mother and goddess, our society forbids a woman from entering the sea,” she says. “I faced strong opposition...they even said it would destroy the sea. There were even times when our nets were damaged,” she adds.

Rekha is no stranger to struggle. Twenty years ago, when she fell in love with Karthikeyan, their families, being from different communities, and certain that the match was doomed to fail, opposed it. “Today, after all these years,” says Rekha, “our work celebrates our

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