Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Recognizing ‘invisible’ role of women vital to small-scale fisheries development

Recognizing ‘invisible’ role of women vital to small-scale fisheries development

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 05 Nov 2010 -- The largely ‘invisible’ role of women in small-scale fisheries must be addressed if policies or development programmes aimed at improving the livelihoods of small scale fishers are to be successful, a workshop in Siem Reap heard today.

Jose Parajua, Regional Manager of the Spanish-funded Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP) said, “Women play a significant role in fisheries, yet lack of attention to gender can result in policies or programmes failing to improve livelihoods or reduce vulnerability of fishing communities.”

The fisheries sector has long been considered a male domain. However, the involvement and contribution of women is far more significant than often assumed. Women are estimated to comprise almost half of the labour force in small-scale capture fisheries-related activities. While men are typically involved in fishing from larger boats, women are heavily engaged in small-scale local fisheries, harvesting shellfish or seaweeds, repairing nets, processing fish products and marketing in addition to running the household and looking after children.

“In many cases there is an incomplete understanding of the contribution of women or the complexity of gender roles in fishing communities,” Mr Parajua said. “Gender issues need to be acknowledged in the design of development projects and fully integrated into project implementation.”

As part of its efforts to promote gender equity to improve fisheries livelihoods, the RFLP is developing a field handbook that gives guidance on taking gender into account in all phases of small scale fisheries development projects. The handbook includes a number of tools designed to help assess gender considerations. Tools include an activity analysis which helps map the activities of men and women in their daily lives; an analysis of access by men and women to resources and benefits (e.g. cash/income, boats, markets, information, community groups etc); and an analysis on gender needs (e.g. access to training, credit, education, clean water etc).

The four-day workshop held 2-5 November looked at best practices for mainstreaming gender in the fisheries sector. Government staff, field project staff, researchers as well as representatives of NGOs and international organizations from around the region discussed and field tested the tools contained in the handbook.

Ajay Markanday, FAO Representative in Cambodia said, “There is a global consensus on the importance of addressing gender in development. However when it comes to field project design and implementation there are no specific recommendations on how to do so in the context of Small Scale Fisheries. FAO fully acknowledges the importance of addressing gender issues in development projects and I am confident this handbook will make an important contribution to help ensure gender concerns are explicitly recognized and addressed in project activities.”

The Regional Fisheries Livelihood Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP) seeks to improve the livelihoods of fisher folk and their families while fostering more sustainable fisheries resources management practices in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.

The four-year (2009 – 2013), USD 19.55 million RFLP is funded by the Kingdom of Spain and implemented by FAO in collaboration with national authorities in participating countries.

For more information please contact Steve Needham, RFLP Information Officer Email; Tel +66 83 6066628

Press release issued by the Office of the FAO Representative in Cambodia