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Mainstreaming gender in West Africa’s Coastal Fisheries Initiative

Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Participants at the Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa project gender workshop.
Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Workshop participants reviewed and operationalized the project’s draft gender strategy.
Photo: ©FAO/Kambou
Fisherfolk associations in Côte d’Ivoire organize day care centers such as these to ease women’s burdens during their long hours at work.
Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Throughout the week, participants modified project indicators and activities to better integrate a gender-responsive approach to project implementation.

Women have an important role to play in Africa’s fisheries sector, but their contributions are too often overlooked.  

The African Union Commission and The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) recognize this challenge, which they address in their Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa. This strategy makes clear that this reality translates into lost development opportunities for Africa.

As highlighted in an earlier blog post, FAO’s West Africa Coastal Fisheries Initiative project is now underway. At this early stage of the GEF-financed project, a workshop was held last week in Rome to operationalize the draft gender strategy for the project.

Participants from FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, the Gender Division and the National  Project Officers from Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal came together at FAO Headquarters and via teleconferencing from 4-6 February to discuss how to move forward with gender-responsive project implementation for the Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa project.

Participants reviewed and operationalized the project’s draft gender strategy by modifying project indicators and activities to better integrate a gender-responsive approach to project implementation. Over the three days, participants discussed links to existing gender guidelines in relevant global and regional instruments and national policies, and began drafting a set of operational principles and a checklist for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Speaking at the opening day of the workshop, Ilaria Sisto, Gender and Development Officer in FAO’s Economic and Social Development Department provided an overview of FAO’s Policy on Gender Equality and its five objectives, which include: equal participation for men and women as decision-makers; equal access to decent employment, land and resources; equal access to goods, services and markets; a commitment to reduce women’s workload by 20% ; and a commitment to increasing agricultural aid aimed at gender equality to 30% .

According to Sisto, “It’s important for our work to start addressing gender issues from the outset, to sit down at the start of project activities in order to ensure that gender is mainstreamed throughout all of its activities with clear gender-equality objectives. Gender mainstreaming can never truly work if it is simply an objective that is added on at the end, as a project is coming to a close.”

Gunilla Tegelskar Greig, Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa Project Coordinator, provided an overview of the African Union Commission-NEPAD Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture and spoke about ensuring that the project’s gender-responsive project implementation was consistent with such agreed strategies.

Tegelskar Greig and FAO colleagues visited project sites in Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal at the end of 2018, and highlighted some of the interesting developments the team had seen. One example she cited was a new fisheries landing and processing site in Abidjan, which houses a day-care center for mothers with young children. Those women work long hours at the site selling and processing fish, so the new day care center is welcomed as an excellent example of a cost-effective activity that can help to reduce women’s workload.

The workshop outputs will help guide the national and regional project teams in mainstreaming gender-equality issues into the national work plans for Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. The Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa project’s National Project Officer for Côte d’Ivoire, Fatoumata Ouattara, who attended the workshop, provided important background on gender-based constraints impacting women and men in the fisheries sector in the three countries.

Project Coordinator, Gunilla Tegelskar Greig, noted, “We spoke this week about FAO’s dedication to working towards achievement of equality between men and women in sustainable agricultural and fisheries production and rural development for the elimination of hunger and poverty. As a group, we discussed how the Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa project can support this organizational goal by striving to close the gender gap in fisheries, which will help promote the long-term efficiency, profitability and sustainability of the sector and its contribution to food and nutrition security, poverty eradication, and equitable development.”

Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Gunilla Tegelskar Greig, Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa Project Coordinator welcomes participants to the workshop. To her left is National Project Officer for Côte d’Ivoire, Fatoumata Ouattara, who joined participants in Rome.
Photo: ©FAO/Catanzano
Women like these in Cabo Verde have an important role to play in Africa’s fisheries sector, but their contributions are too often overlooked.
Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Discussion and information sharing among workshop participants helped to inform work on modifying project indicators.
Photo: ©FAO/Kambou
Three days of talks on mainstreaming gender in the Coastal Fisheries Initiative West Africa project resulted in a more gender-responsive work plan.
Photo: ©FAO/Benedetti
Women at work selling fish at the market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
The Workshop initiated many useful discussions for moving forward to mainstream gender in project activities.

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