6. The role of organisations in women's fishing
What role should organisations play in promoting women's fishing? Before answering that, one has to decide what activities are needed. This matter is generally addressed in chapter 7 (constraints) and chapter 8 (recomendations): activities include access to fisheries resources, markets, relevant information and acquisition of skills. Indirect support helps women to go fishing too: for example, by encouraging good family nutrition.
Answering the question 'what are you doing to aid women in fishing?' was not easy for most organisations until the consultant explained the type of issues involved. It transpired that about half of the organisations are directly assisting women or communities in Vanuatu to improve their capacity to utilise the fish stocks. The consultant's selection of organisations to visit may have biased the record of the second half. Unfortunately, shortage of time prevented the consultant from meeting representatives of some organisations.
Apart from direct assistance, provision of skills or training are common forms of assistance.
The consultant identified two remarkable facts. Firstly, a lot of organisations or institutions with similar interests are working in Vanuatu, and secondly, that almost all of them are working in isolation. "If Only" they would adopt the skills they themselves often teach (e.g. communication, negotiation, problem solving) to better utilise their resources - in any of their activities. 'There is potential for the existing women's organisations to promote the enhancement of women's status. However, these organisations will have to clearly define their roles and overcome problems of lack of finance and human resources, skills training, etc.' (Mackenzie-Reur, 19951: 48).
The Women's Business Unit, Department of Rural Business & Cooperatives
This unit was created by the Government in response to the need to develop income-generating possibilities suitable to women. It was opened in 1993. 'Its primary purpose is to identify the full range of businesses that could involve women and to explore income-generating activities that could be developed into businesses.'
The WBU receives funding through the British Government (Overseas Development Agency). The Unit gives advice and offers courses; does research on what women do and, as a result of that, may suggest new activities. The unit's main activities are in promoting business awareness, costing, marketing and use of credit.
The consultant heard about the work of the WBU from the British High Commission, the unit itself and - more significantly - from women in villages in most places she visited. The consul, ant commends the members of the WBU for their approach to helping women, especially to their traveling to the communities.
Department of Women's Affairs
First established within the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development under the Ministry of Education; then part of the Prime Minister's Office. In October 1992, the Office of Womens' Affairs became a small department under the Ministry of Justice, Culture and Women's Affairs.
The two main functions of the DWA are to coordinate the implementation of Government policies, plans, projects and programs for the development of women in Vanuatu and to advise the government on the needs, plans and requirements of women's groups, including the VNCW and church women's associations. The DWA has four field officers (northern (three provinces), Malampa, Shefa, Tafea provinces) who visit communities to provide training in nutrition, sewing, cooking, soap making, water tank construction, processing of vegetable crops, confidence building(?). The DWA does appear to be assisting women, but it is still tied to the conventional items.
The DWA dispenses grant-in-aid money for women received by the NPSO to church groups, women's groups and cultural groups (all under the umbrella of the Ministry of Justice, Culture and Women's Affairs).
There appears to be conflict and overlap of service with some of the NGOs.
Department of Environment
The main emphasis by this department is in gathering information on environmental impact and conservation matters (e.g. overfishing reports). The department also runs awareness programs in Torres and Banks on the conservation of coconut crabs. No surveys of Vanuatu's freshwaters have been undertaken (say they are waiting for the Fisheries Department).
The department is small and has a small budget. With these limitations it does its best to perform its functions. However, it is a slow starter with regard to women's and community involvement in fisheries. For example, it has not carried out surveys of Vanuatu's freshwaters and archipelagic waters, but has limited information on inshore waters of some islands (work by A.I.M. S., ORSTOM). The department has no or few statistics on inshore fish landings and cannot estimate stock size of most fish resources, and for some it has little information on species distribution and identity. The emphasis by the department has been, and is, largely on export and high-value domestic fisheries.
The department has some information on fishing methods (including custom) used around the country - compiled a few years ago by agencies of the FTC.
The department has no or little information about fisheries businesses or enterprises underway in areas other than the export and high-value domestic fisheries. Its extensior, staff's attention is given largely to these areas, and there is inadequate funding of the law enforcement officer and extension work for communities.
The department has little liaison with other government departments, NGOs and churches on fisheries development or community fishing matters. Its competency in giving advice in these arenas is questionable, an observation also supported by very few of the NGOs having approached or discussed their community fisheries initiatives with the department. One fisheries officer works with the Department of Environment on conservation/awareness matters; and other informal networks may be operating. The department's main liaison is with regional bodies and overseas missions.
In a positive move however, the Fisheries Department ran a fisheries training course (in two, one-month sessions) for rural women from the no them provinces at its training centre in 1996. Another course is supposed to be un in 1997 for rural women from the southern provinces, as well as a course on fish quality for women (pers. comm., J. Stewart, New Zealand).
The first Rural Women's Fisheries Training Course was funded at nearly 3.1 million vatu by the New Zealand High Commission from its in-country training allocation. The aim of the course was to teach gillnet construction, repair and maintenance, demonstrate how to use gillnets, teach fish smoking and making a smoke house, teach simple money management and demonstrate different ways of cooking, and the objective was to teach women to develop fishing skills and so give them the potential to enter the industry so that they may increase their standard of living, increase their income, increase the amount of fish protein in their diet, and integrate fishing with farming and agriculture.
The course and time allocation consisted of:
Fish quality: 0.5 day
Gillnet construction and use, knotting and splicing, net braiding and mending, making of mats, machrame hangers, hammocks: 12 days
Drop-line fishing trip: 2 days
Smoking, drying, bottling and salting fish: 3 days
Fish in food and nutrition, fish poisoning, recipes, home gardens: 6 days
Money management and book-keeping: 1 day (reading only)
Women's self-esteem (including child discipline with biblical quotations, human diseases, breast feeding, hygiene, nutrition, child care and family planning): 1 day
Communication skills: 0.5 day
Marine (environmental) awareness: 1 day
Fisheries laws: 0.5 day
Fisheries in the Pacific: 0.5 day
The women could choose the mesh size of the gillnets they constructed (choice of about 1.5 inch to 3 inch, stretched mesh) and they were given the nets they made. A stated reason for the heavy emphasis on gillnets was to introduce an alternative means of harvesting so that the women would not over-exploit the reefs which they traditionally target. The Fisheries Department's initiative to run the course was stated as being its 'support for sustainable development and management of inshore waters' as well a, its desire to invoIve women in fishing opportunistics. The premise of the course (to help women enter the industry) was misplaced: it assumes women don't fish already. The course content was circulated to the VNCW and the DWA before approval.
It is a reflection of the skills of the FTC officers and the department's current approach to fisheries that the course had such emphasis on commercial fishing techniques. The course was imbalanced with regard to 'sustainable development and management' and indeed, the department encouraged over-exploitation by issuing gillnets of indiscriminate mesh size. However, such nets are already available in Vanuatu without restriction, so a gift of a net at least overcomes the financial constraint on would-be women netters. Much more emphasis could have been given to sustainable fishing practices by women, habitat conservation and post-harvest handling.
It is unfortunate that bias crept into the selection of candidates and there was underrepresentation of some islands (e.g. no-one from Torba Province came). The FTC officers are expected to follow-up on the attendees in the coming months. The consultant met some of the course women in Malekula and Santo.
Marine studies ("The Sea") is taught in grades 5 and 6 in all primary schools in Vanuatu, and is not repeated in the secondary school curriculum. In years 7-10 (juniopr secondary), food and nutrition, home economics and food preservation are taught (?to girls only). The New Zealand Government has funded a workshop on 'women in technology' (emphasis on industrial arts and home economics) for junior(?) secondary school students. Students going on to the two years of senior secondary school choose their subjects, and this depends on what courses are offered at the senior level. Many go into computing; some do science. There was not easily available information on how many girls and boys took up studies relevant to business, fisheries and the environment.
University of the South Pacific
The USP in Vanuatu does not offer courses in fisheries (or science), which are available at the Suva (Fiji) campus.
The USP sub-centre at Santo's Continuing Education courses are of interest. Ten week, two hours/week courses are run in business management, basic mechanics, English for beginners, French for beginners, computer awareness and typing courses several times a year. There are no required entrance qualifications and the course fee is 6,500 vt each (8,000 vt for computing).
Department of Health
The department's involvement in improving the nutrition of the Ni-Vanuatu population extends to village visits and workshops and surveys. Some of its nutrition funding comes from the Save the Children Fund. With the assistance of the Statistics Office it recently carried out a 24-hour diet recall survey of 3,000 people. With the Department of Education it has developed a health-nutrition-agriculture syllabus for primary schools, but its teaching is optional. The department promotes good nutrition also through the National Food and Nutrition Committee.
Department of Industry. Commerce & Trade
The department supports small business development projects in rural areas. It also organises some workshops in low skills levels (e.g. in Santo).
Department of Youth. Sport & Community Development
The department encourages the provision of basic fisheries training in the villages. The Santo office administers the Ausaid-funded Land Use Planning Project, whose objective is the sustainable development of natural resources.
National Planning and Statistics Office
The National Planning office 'watches over' and directs national development. This includes attention to the direction of the Fisheries Department. It commissions studies in the national interest.
The Statistics Office conducts and publishes the results of the national agricultural census and the national census. It also publishes and offers for sale reports of studies of national interest, and facilitates statistical surveys and analyses by departments, organisations, and individuals
Vanuatu National Council of Women
Set up as an umbrella organization of all women's groups and clubs in Vanuatu in May 1980, the VNCW receives most of its funding from the ICCO, a Netherlands-based group of churches. Funding has also come from New Zealand, Australia, Britain, CUSO, Save the Children Fund and World Vision Vanuatu.
The goals of the VNCW are to act as an umbrella organization; to ensure its development programs 'contribute to the realisation of the potential of women as partners and beneficiaries of the development process' and to ensure that development assistance is responsive to the priorities and requests of all women in Vanuatu (Bowie, 19952: 137). The goals include assisting women in upgrading their skills 'to deal with women's problems and needs' and developing national programs on issues and problems facing women. (Bowie2. 139).
Bowie2 is critical of the VNCW's administration and its underlying motives. She says 'The activities of the VNCW at the village level follow the traditional activities introduced by missionaries when they set up church women's clubs.'(p. 112). Indeed, it is difficult for the consultant to shake that view. Most of the training offered to rural women by the VNCW are activities that enhance the domestic realm of women: cooking, sewing, sewing machine repair, health, nutrition, culture and the environment, crocheting, weaving, soap making, silk-screen printing, rural water tank construction and(?) smokeless stove manufacture. Infrequently the VNCW offers skills that take the women outside of the 'woman-wife-mother' role - for example, they supported a training course in fish processing at a vocational school (pers. comm., Alice Athy). Women's self esteem courses are run at the women's crisis centre in Vila (only), and VNCW head office staff have attended management and personal c development courses.
The consultant heard complaints about the VNCW or its regional councillors in many villages she visited. Particularly striking were complaints from rural Efate women that they could only improve their skills if they travelled intoVila to attend courses; with the result that Efate women don't attend because of the money they would need for transport (alone). On three occasions the consultant visited the VNCW head office,where the staff were unable to locate copies of their 1996-98 work program, their current list of 23 island councillors, nor advise on the status of funding schemes. Comments heard by other women's workers in rural Vanuatu endorse the impression received and statements read in published reports1,2,3 that the VNCW is out of touch with the needs and views of rural Ni-Vanuatu women, that some of its staff are not competetent, and that the head office's unprofessional attitude does a dis-service to the women of Vanuatu. The VNCW may well service the needs of urban women however. While the VNCW's officer in Banks gave a good impression, other rural representatives (in two Santo places, Efate) were unavailable.
The 13 regional councils of the VNCW each receives a subscription of 10,000 vt/year raised from communities. The VNCW does not appear to collaborate in its activities with those of the DWA or other NGOs.
Save the Children Fund
The fund has operated in Vanuatu since 1984. It works mainly in the health arena. It supports the nutrition program run by the Department of Health, the rural water tanks program and (?) the rural sanitation program.
The SCF has carried out a number of projects in Vanuatu, all aimed a. improving the quality of life in communities. There was its national nutrition survey in 1983, a kitchen improvement project at Ambae in 1993; and recently (1996) a study into the needs of communities in south Santo ('South Santo Bush Community Resource Management Project'). The SCF is looking for ways of creating income generation in communities.
World Vision Vanuatu
World Vision Vanuatu used to substantially fund DWA and VNCW for projects such as home economics, rural water tanks and smokeless stoves. Its new direction is to encourage the status of women in rural Vanuatu by developing skills for income generation. Through its participatory rural appraisal (PRA) schemes it is offering training in basic management skills, leadership (engenders confidence) and communication (gives responsibility). It has a primary health care clinic in Torres, runs adult literacy courses in eight islands, runs a vocational training centre (with the Presbyterian Church) in north Efate and delivers human resource development courses for the national government in rural areas.
CUSO (Canadian University Students Overseas)
CUSO was previously involved in the Village Fisheries Development Programme (VFDP). Now it undertakes and encourages customary marine tenure and comanagement initiatives (e.g. is funding a Cultural Centre survey of the Maskelyne Islands) which includes recording custom fishing methods.
CUSO provides funds to build women's centres and is also involved in developing equal gender participation in rural areas (runs workshops).
Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific
The consultant had limited success in finding out a lot about the FSP's work in Vanuatu (not a constraint from FSP).
FSP has recently run environmental awareness and education courses in Vanuatu. These were funded by Ausaid and managed by SPREP, and comprised a 'train the trainer' approach: schools, media, other NGOs and schools participated
In 1993-94 at Hog Harbour (Santo) FSP engaged in a big community-based resource management project with some funding coming from USAld. The involvement of women was mainly on the environmental management aspect. At the time, a survey was carried out on the role of women in fishing at Hog Harbour - but the results were either not completely analysed or are still in draft form (i.e. unavailable).
The FSP has changed its approach to assistance in Vanuatu and is now orientating its programs to 'bottom-up needs' (pers. comm., Toulel Sope). Previous courses run have been on conventional 'women's needs' (e.g. soap making); now FSP's program involves self-awareness and 'out-going' skills. The FSP officer in Tafea travels to the villages (as may other FSP officers).
Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centres Association
The RDTCA runs programs on several Vanuatu islands (including Epi Island and north Pentecost). Its manner of approach is through participatory rural appraisal (PRA). Skills aimed at encouraging individual and community income generation are taught, including literacy, numeracy, business management (e.g. book-keeping). The north Pentecost program involves a fishing operation. Some funding for the RDTCs comes from the New Zealand government.
For various reasons, the consultant was unable to obtain much information about this NGO. It receives good acknowledgement from the WBU and the Fist cries Department.
The Peace Corps has a fishing project in Paarma. Its main emphasis is in providing volunteers to teach in secondary schools (southern Malekula, Tanna, Erromango) and at Rural Training Centres (Maskelyne Islands, Banks, Erromango, Aneityum). Subjects taught by its volunteers include accountancy, book-keeping, carpentry and home skills.
Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (VANGO)
Vango's goal is to build a 'vital NGO sector which accurately represents the interest of the indigenous people and promotes locally important development issues'. Its brochure says that it provides networking, arranges meetings, public talks and training workshops, has a resource centre, supports community groups. Among its objectives is that of providing 'a communcations network to encourage exchange between NGOs at a national, regional and international level.'
Although '50' organisations, participate in VANGO's work, its 1994-95 financial and associate membership numbered only 17. This points to the failure of VANGO: despite its competent and enthusiastic small staff, it has to struggle for funding and many NGOs bypass its services. This is a pity as it results in duplication of effort and hence resource waste.
National Community Development Trust
This NGO undertakes environmental awareness education, provides education on health matters, teaches 'empowering' information and has literacy programs. It conducts community workshops, and tries to encourage and support primary school leavers returning to their villages. Funds for its work come from Community Aid Abroad and Oxfam New Zealand.
Rural Skills Training Program
The consultant was again unable to obtain much information about this NGO. It appears to carry out programs similar to those of the National Community Development Trust and the Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centres Association.
Church women's clubs in Vanuatu were originally set up by the white missionaries' wives. Ni-Vanuatu women were taught how to weave and sew (to clothe themselves). To some extent, little has changed as women's clubs mainly support the influence of the church in the community: women work for the church. It is unusual for the church to develop, programs aimed at enlightening or emancipating women or which may lead women away from the traditional wife-and-mother role of supporting their menfolk and family (various sources). Churches fit in well with the Vanuatu culture as decided by the Council of Chiefs. They do not teach environmental education (pers. comm., Department of Environment).
The contribution of churches to communities depends on one's outlook. Several interviewees said that 'the church and politics' have caused a lot of division in Vanuatu communities.
There are at least 12 religious denominations in Vanuatu: Anglican, Apostolic Church, Assemblies of God, Baha'i Faith, Catholic, Christian Orthodox Centre, Church of Christ, Holiness Fellowship, Presbyterian, Renewal, Seventh Day Adventist and the Vanuatu Christian Council. The consultant managed to interview four:
Anglican Has very strong community groups. Anglican church is dominant in the north of the country. Women work hard for the church. The church at Santo has built a fishing boat with 10mt fish-hold capacity.
Church of Christ Funds for the main program come through New Zealand and Australia, yet individual programs have to raise their own money. The womens/community group has two-year programs. Up until now they have concentrated on sewing, weaving, cooking, crocheting and so on; however the intent for the next two years (Santo office) is to offer training in organisational skills, bookkeeping, accounting/profit-and-loss and business management. The Santo women's representative works with the DWA officer to pool resources. The initiative is looking for funding.
Presbyterian The Presbyterian Women Member's Union said that women sell a lot of things in support of church projects. The union members interviewed didn't seem to think that women should be engaged in commercial fishing other than selling shells. However, they indicated that their practice is to inform a community, which then decides if it wants to know - and if extra support is needed to help women in fishing activities, then the union will try to provide it.
Seventh Day Adventist The women's group (Dorcas society) of the church concentrates on raising funds for the church through traditional women's activities (sewing, cooking, crafts...) and a once-a-year fair. The money from the activities is despatched to needy people as well as being recirculated. The church considers that through teaching understanding and supporting families, it contributes to the capacity of women to enter and continue in commercial activities and interests outside of the home.
In earlier years, ORSTOM did a lot of work on Vanuatu's fisheries. It investigated the drop-line snapper resource, for example, and has performed village and inshore fisheries surveys (see David (1990) for literature). Its current projects are the preparation of an atlas of Vanuatu fish resources (in French and English) and a study of food consumption patterns through time in west and east Santo and Malo.
ORSTOM also directly contributed to the Fisheries Department's work by training and funding some staff positions. An ORSTOM-trained man the consultant met at Wala is supporting his community by transplanting trochus to the community's reef area.
Australian High Commission
The commission aims for gender equity in the allocation of funding. It provides funding to the DWA, and is investigating a proposal to fund a fishing project in the Maskelyne Islands which 'may' involve women.
Ausaid funding supports the Land Use Planning Project and contributed to a FSP-managed environmental awareness program in Santo.
British High Commission
The commission supports training for rural women in small business and project management. Decision making, book-keeping and credit management are some of its training areas. Funding comes through its Overseas Development Agency which supports the WBU and the current Department of Fisheries - Marine Resources Assessment Group's co-management project.
The European Union funded the Fishing Training Centre in Santo and has spent considerable monies on placement of ice plants and related facilities around the country under the village Fisheries Development Programme. Now it funds in five-year cycles based or a 'National Indicative Program'. The obligation of the union is based in the Lome Convention.
The European Union commits a lot of funding to natural resources, including fisheries It puts priority on funding equally by gender. If fewer projects [in fisheries] involving women than for men are identified, then the union may not be interested in providing funds for fisheries programs. It has funds available for training courses in reef management.
New Zealand High Commission
The commission funded the rural women's training workshops in Santo as well as an earlier workshop on fish quality which included women (?with/in he South Pacific Development Assistance Facility).
New Zealand is keen to aid women's small business initiatives which it does through allocations for small business development and women in development. The commission also provides assistance to income generating projects in rural areas. The commission's programs are aimed at gender equity. If women are specifically denied access to a project aid for it would be refused. However, good projects are still favourably considered, even if women are not included (concept: all the community benefits from the project). New Zealand funding has assisted in school, VNCW and VRDTCA programs.
Forum Fisheries Agency
Apart from its regional tuna program the agency provides assistance to member countries in its extension officers' training programs.
Recently (1994) the agency published the Republic of Vanuatu Fisheries Resources Profiles which contains in one volume all the information known on Vanuatu's fisheries resources.
South Pacific Commission
The SPC has an active women's fisheries development section which provides networking and offers assistance to women fishers in member countries (probably at government request). The commission also has a resourceful post-harvest section which can give advice also.
The SPC provided foundation money in the early 1990s for a small loans scheme for women in each member country.
South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)
This program supports the turtle conservation project in Vanuatu (and also in the Pacific). It managed a FSP environmental awareness program at Hog Harbour for the FSP, and it may be involved in other environmental management programs in Vanuatu (e.g. coconut crab conservation).
Economic and Social Commission for the South Pacific (U.N.) (ESCAP)
The ESCAP supported the study by Mackenzie-Reur (1995) on the situation of women and children in Vanuatu. It has a women's affairs officer who identifies programs for women and facilitates funding arrangements for them from the (?)United Nations Development Programme.
1 Mackenzie-Reur, V L. (1995). Statistical profile on the situation of women in Vanuatu. ESCAP, Vila. 67 pp.
2 Bowie, C. (1995). Voice blong ol woman. "The women's voice ". Report of the rural women's needs assessment. Vanuatu National Council of Women. 183 pp.
3 UNICEF (1991). A situation analysts of children and women in Vanuatu. Vanuatu Government. 97 pp.