Pacific handbook for gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries and aquaculture. / by Francisco Blaha

As I dive deeper in the decent work condition in fisheries world (and believe me is a BIG world) for the FAO position paper I’m working on, I keep discovering amazing material. The labour component of fisheries and aquaculture is bigger and more complex that I ever imagined, as there are so many angles and layers. Yet needless to say I’m learning a lot and bringing big lessons to my more usual compliance and fisheries development work.

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Among the amazing plethora of materials I’m using, I like to bring to attention to the “Pacific handbook for gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries and aquaculture” published a few days ago by SPC’s FAME.

I love working for SPC and the quality of the publications is sine quanon. The handbook here presented is written by four authors and I’m lucky to know two of them (and they are great people!) Dr. Kate Barclay and Connie Donato-Hunt.

And if that wasn't enough it has a quite a few of pictures I took over the years, including one of my favourites ever!

I just going to present the publication, but you should download the original from here.

This handbook is designed to give practical guidance on improving gender and social inclusion in coastal fisheries and aquaculture for staff working in fisheries agencies in Pacific Island countries and territories. It focuses on the responsibilities of Pacific Island governments to help promote sustainable development outcomes for all people relying on coastal fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods.

The book has 5 modules: Introduction, Gender and Social Analysis, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Government Process and the Policy Cycle. 

The modules are structured around the tasks involved in government work on coastal fisheries and aquaculture, that is, the planning and implementation of projects and programmes, including social analysis, monitoring and evaluation, policy development, community engagement, fisheries management, and livelihood projects.

The intro set it splendidly: 

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Over the last decade, we have made efforts to address the human dimension of natural resource management. When the human dimension is considered in fisheries and aquaculture, it is often in the context of ‘coastal communities’. However, communities are not homogenous – their members have different roles, status and entitlements.

Baseline surveys of communities generally use the ‘household’ as the basic unit. This can result in differences between the roles of women and men of various ages and their power relations being overlooked, even though inequality of household members, in terms of decision-making and income sharing, is often at the root of development and environmental issues.

There was an earlier wave of effort to promote the role of ‘women in fisheries’ in the Pacific, especially in the 1980s. Today there is renewed interest in the area of ‘gender and fisheries’.

This focus on gender equity, equality and social inclusion comes from awareness of women’s critical role in fisheries and management of marine resources, and the importance of everyone benefiting equitably from technical and scientific interventions designed to achieve development outcomes.

Integrating a gender and social inclusion (GSI) perspective in coastal resource management and development improves our capacity to achieve the goal of improving the well-being of all people living in coastal areas.

People use their coastal resources in different ways and develop specialised knowledge and skills related to them.

Women use coastal marine resources to provide food as well as material for handcrafts for customary exchange or income generation. They farm seaweed and sell fish and invertebrates in markets. They often have good knowledge of the marine resources in shallow waters and along the shore.

Men collect coastal marine resources for subsistence as well, but they also go out to sea to catch fish for food and for sale. They may know more about marine life in deeper waters. Men are usually more involved than women in high-value commercial fisheries such as beche-de-mer (sea cucumber), but women also take part in beche-de-mer harvesting in some places including Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

A gender analysis could show that we overlook certain areas of fisheries and aquaculture due to ‘unconscious bias’. Unconscious bias can occur in several ways. We might define fishing and aquaculture narrowly (e.g. based on fishing for sale only) or focus only on activities that men are more involved in, and ignore those dominated by women. 

We think of fishing as something that takes place on fishing boats, and we concentrate mainly on the fisheries that generate cash. For example, in the industrial tuna fishery, fleet employees are all male and fishery access fees are an important source of government revenue. Coastal fisheries that involve using boats and producing fish for sale in markets also tend to be dominated by men.

Women do fish, and their fishing is important for food security, but we notice and value men’s forms of fishing more. Some women use boats to fish, but most of them fish or glean (collect by hand) close to shore in shallow waters where they do not need boats, and their catch is often consumed directly for food, rather than being sold.

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We also tend to forget about women’s participation in fisheries because we focus on the point of harvest rather than the whole supply chain. Women make up the bulk of the tuna processing industry workforce. They tend to be more involved in processing and marketing fish from coastal fisheries, including smoking, salting, drying, or cooking fish using traditional and modern methods. In addition, women use seashells to produce handcrafts that have high cultural value and generate income.

 Both women and men share the unconscious biases that cause us to overlook women’s roles in fisheries. This can seriously affect the accuracy of survey results. For example, national Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (HIES) conducted over the 2012–2015 period in various Pacific countries found that women made up only 8% of the fisheries labour force.Fisheries research, however, has found that women’s participation in fisheries in the Pacific is often over 50% when we include gleaning and subsistence fisheries.11,12 It is possible that unconscious bias affected those administering the HIES and those responding, or perhaps the questions were formulated in a way that meant women’s fishing was not picked up.

As said, if you have an interest in this topic, this one of those reference materials that one will keep digging into it!