7. Constraints to women's involvement in fisheries
A snippet of information from the WBU1 report on women participants in the rural market economy serves as an introduction to this chapter.
Women were asked if they had wanted to receive relevant skills training in the last 12 months, but had been unable to do so. The reasons given for non-participation in training were: not enough money to pay course fees (48%), too much family responsibility (39%), not enough time (34%), not enough places on the course (7%), and 'other reasons' (including not hearing the radio message advertising the course, and the husband not agreeing to her participation) (51%).
The work load of women
Time to go fishing:
Many reports (e.g. Bowie2) say that there is little time left for Ni-Vanuatu women to go fishing to feed their families or to sell fish. This is a sweeping statement and is not applicable to all of Vanuatu. It also overlooks the contribution of men to subsistence and artisanal fishing. The consultant found that women from small islands almost always found time: Atchin, Mere Lava, Wala, Mota Lava, north Efate islands women, Aneityum women, Makira (reported). Women do not fish from boats/canoes when the sea is rough or current strong (e.g. Tongoa, Eton village in Efate); women fishing with bamboo rods (e.g. Futuna, west Tanna) fished irrespective of weather conditions; while some women reported that they occasionally fished when the tide was low and the sea calm (e.g. handlining and reef gleaning activities).
Fish as an animal protein source is more likely to contribute to the everyday subsistence diet in coastal rural areas than do beef and pig2, as usually it can be harvested in small amounts. Nevertheless, surveys (e.g. UNICEF3) show that nutrition is poor generally in Vanuatu. This information as much supports the observations that rural women rarely have time to go fishing as suggests that rural men do not go fishing (for subsistence). In Ambae the men and the women rarely fish in the sea. But again there are exceptions: for example at Futuna the men go trolling for karong and flyingfish fishing for subsistence, men in the off-shore Efate islands frequently provide for the families, as do Post Olry men).
However, time is certainly a general constraint on women in many rural areas. There are not enough hours in the day for them to participate in fishing on a regular basis (as would be required for fully commercial activity) in addition to their socially prioritised chores. The greatest amount of time in the daily lives of women - often many hours - is spent in the garden or walking to/from the garden. Access to labour saving devices in the village household is limited, and asking women to do more leads to serious time-management problems.
If women generally are to participate more in regular fishing activity, their practical work load in others areas must be decreased and the men in society have to take on more responsibility in providing.
Women's childcaring and household duties mean they remain nearer in the village; and it is possible that only women whose children are at school or are beyond childbearing age are more active in fishing - that is, they can stay away from home longer or have less other work (a survey of this should give interesting results). Being absent from the community for long hours while fishing alone or with one other - such as in drop-line fishing - can also be a social disadvantage. This is in contrast to reef gleaning and gathering, and other activities such as gardening, weaving and sewing.
Some women are time managers. For example:
a) Sometimes women ask young family members to go fishing for small reef fish for laplap while they themselves prepare the laplap material - as they do not have time themselves. The women may remunerate the children in vatu.
b) Some women engage others to garden for them or care for their children while they undertake other tasks.
c) Two-thirds of women consulted1 engage in 3-4 economic activities simultaneously, and 45% of women consulted spend 1.5-4 days a week on these activities - in addition to their usual household responsibilities.
Men make decisions in the household
Most of the decisions in the Vanuatu household are made by the man. He decides on the use of resources such as land, money and dictates the number of children4. One major reason for this is the attitude that because the women are paid for (bride price) they are the man's property and must do as they are told. In modem day Vanuatu, the dowry system continues even though many women have better access to education and employment and have become very independent. In families where the husband is the head of the household1, the family size is larger (up to 8 children). In the rural areas, women are largely dependent on their menfolk, and this is one reason why they continue to be secondary to them. Land inherited by women becomes the property of the husband on marriage, and the women cannot own or have legal control over resources in their new home area: so women (as individuals) effectively lose resource rights.
On income and how it is spent.
The consultant found that almost invariably, the husband decided the sale pace of goods (vegetables, laplap, fish) for the market - although he did not do the marketing. This function is performed by women only except in Vila and Santo where some husbands attend with their wives.
Although 34% of females have paid employment4 this does not mean that they have access to their earnings and control how it is spent; although the situation is more equitable amongst educated couples. In more educated families, couples worked together to save for important items (e.g. school fees)2.
On earning more:
In some rural areas, there is a social constraint to women earning more income2. Some rural men reported to resent their wives carrying out income-generating projects in a group of women - separate from the family. However, there is no resentment felt by husbands towards women's income generating activities intended to assist the individual household. Women's activities to help the community or the church would be permitted.
Men make decisions in the community
Women's fishing preserves and their access to resource harvesting can be negatively affected by decisions made by men. Although reefs and lagoons remain predominantly community property, overall control of and decisions on access to them is usually the responsibility of the village council, comprising village chiefs and elders (no women). Whereas the whole community is consulted on community matters, the village elders and chiefs make the final decisions. The village council would decide on any major commercial development that may be envisaged, as well as when to impose and lift, fishing bans (tabus).
Nowadays, where production and harvesting of trochus, greensnail and sea cucumbers (for bêche-de-mer production) are highlighted, customary tenure rights have been implemented to set aside whole reef areas from harvesting. Tabus have also been placed where general fish harvesting is perceived to be diminishing stocks - as in Mota Lava, some near-Vile reefs, north Efate and on Malekula. The level of closure may encompass only the targeted item, all sessile - generally invertebrate - organisms, or all fish; the period of closure varies from one to four (Emae Island) years; and one or all reef complexes may be involved. A total harvesting ban effectively prevents the consumption of vertebrate and invertebrate reef fish in the associated villages - unless the fish is procurred through barter or exchange with unaffected villages, given, or bought. At Dravail near Lamap, the women told the consultant that they 'don't eat fish' because half of their nearshore reef is under tabu and that tinned fish was too expensive at 180 vt/large tin. [It was not explained why the women don't barter for fish from nearby areas.]. Closure of reefs does not prevent fishers from fishing beyond the reefs or reef platform (e.g. for tunas and larger pelagic fishes, drop-line fish) but this fishing is predominantly performed by men.
Women are the ones mainly affected by reef closures therefore and as such the practice impinges on (a) the provision of fish in the subsistence diet in rural areas and (b) the ability of women to earn income from fish they harvest. Urban dwellers are not affected by reef closures implemented in outer islands as some of the fish harvested by the men fishers often are intended for their consumption: however, they would be affected by reef closures on Efate and within commuting distance on Santo.
Attitude of some men some women. some church groups and government departments
With the goal of encouraging economic development and having limited finances to support initiatives, national fisheries planners often focus on supporting commercial and export-orientated fisheries which tend to be the domain of men. Credit, equipment, training, research and other services are provided to commercial fishermen to support their activities in the hope that income will flow into the country5,6. The subsistence fisheries usually receive little attention - and women contribute greatest at the subsistence level. Ipso facto, their contribution in fishing and selling fish on local markets tends to be under-estimated2. Whereas statistics on commercial fisheries (e.g. export values) are kept to 'justify' the expenditure on them there are rarely data on the value of women's fishing activities to the national economy. Moreover, because of its generally subsistence and small-scale nature, the benefits of women's fishing are not as 'easy' to quantify - for example, healthier population from daily consumption of fish, labour in processing, time spent in marketing. The consultant prepared a questionnaire aimed at getting some idea of the value of women's fishing (Appendix 3).
Frequently in developing nations, training and development is centred on men, as 'planners repeatedly assume that men can use women as unpaid family labour' (Whitehead and Bloom, quoted in Bowie2 :30). Fisheries development projects are no exception and contain implicit assumptions such as:
a) most participants in fishing activities are men, so assistance should be directed at them;
b) all women involved in fishing-related activities in the community have menfolk who are similarly involved;
c) that benefits of training, new gear, boats and engines, refrigeration and new processing techniques directed at men will 'trickle-down' and indirectly affect women;*
d) that women will participate in programs 'if they want to';
e) that women who have been displaced by the fishing sector would prefer to (or logically should) find employment in occupations outside the sector.
* For example, Gina-Whewell (1992:13): (on Roviana - Solomons- women) 'With the recent development of clam and seaweed farms in some parts of Roviana, women, who are the traditional exploiters of these resources, are not involved. It involves only the men. So it appears that the women's knowledge of this resource has not been given any recognition.'
Through education barriers such as that are usually removed. Yet in Vanuatu, attitudes to educated women may still take a long time to change: the consultant was struck by the attitude of a young male Ni-Vanuatu senior bank loans officer who stated that the reason many women are employed in the business sector in Vanuatu is because 'they are more obedient'.
According to some writers and spokespersons on women's issues women are not comfortable in receiving guidance from men, that the men 'speak down' to women and are inclined to instruct male villagers rather than the women. Indeed, it was urged that there be female extension officers for both agriculture and fisheries. There are no female extension officers in Vanuatu's Agriculture and Livestock, and Fisheries departments. However, the consultant was informed that the agriculture extension officers are impartial in their training and are aware of gender issues in communities, although 'more than 60%' of the attendance at community training sessions are men. Probably the level of female participation varies throughout the country, and the consultant agrees somewhat with the agriculture officers' view that their attendance depends on whether they are interested, as the consultant perceived the same situation in villages she visited to speak with women.
Some government department officers build an air of superiority about themselves and are lacking in effective communication skills when talking with rural people. They 'dictate from Vila' (M. Amos, pers. comm.) and create a barrier between themselves and the people they are meant to serve. Such an attitude creates a class system. Two examples of the creation of a class structure - by women - were observed by the consultant.
1. courses offered by the VNCW in Efate are run in Vila only, making it necessary for the would-be participants to travel and spend at least one day in Vila. Transport costs in Efate are high, as much as 10,000 vt return trip from Takara, Saama and Epao villages in the north-east. Add to that the cost of lunch while attending the course; and of accommodation if the course runs for more than one day. Back in the village meanwhile, who is minding the children or preparing meals for the husband and family? In constrast, the women in Vila or nearby locations (e.g. Mele, Erakor) can attend the course at comparatively very small cost. When asked, the VNCW could not explain why their officers could not go to the villages (for the cost of one person) where a large audience would be available. They also commented that 'if people valued training they would be willing to pay for it'. Did they?
2. while urban employees of the VNCW, some NGOs and government departments are offered and attend courses in communication skills, team-building skills and the like, courses taken or offered to the rural areas are very frequently 'home skills' courses only. Courses in sewing, soap making, screen printing, nutrition, cooking, weaving, smokeless stove manufacture, rural water tank construction and sewing machine repair appear to be the only courses run in rural areas. It seemed as if a conscious decision had been made that 'educated/urban women can learn these things, but under-educated/rural women are incapable of such learning'. By relegating traditional women's tasks to rural women's learning courses, planners are creating a haves/have-nots structure in society and, worse still, are reinforcing the traditional concept that women are second class citizens. Some NGOs argued that they 'asked rural women what they want to learn and that's what they said' but that argument is flawed: no person can make a complete choice if they are unfamiliar with or unaware of the concepts and options and endpoints of learning.
The consultant also found a self-made 'second-class citizen' attitude held by some women of good education level and jobs - for example, these women did not demur at reported statements by Ni-Vanuatu men that women are employed by firms [only because] they are obedient.
The export and domestic markets in Vanuatu maintain a demand for fish which has never been satisfied despite the good results of the VFDP in the 1980s. There is always a high fish demand in Vila and Santo from expatriates, tourists and high populations.
The constraint is in why it is not being accessed. Some of this is from lack of motivation resulting in irregular fishing (pers. comm., Development Bank) but just as likely it is from inter-island marketing problems (see below).
This motivation phenomenon is not a 'women-only' matter and it is common in the country and throughout the Pacific island nations. Working for the purpose of accruing income is, for many non-salaried workers, a part-time activity: women and men involve themselves in income generation when they need cash. According to the Department of Industry, Trade & Commerce, Ni-Vanuatu men have too casual an attitude to work, especially in the rural areas, and people generally have yet to develop a daily 'going to work' ethic. Women are not as casual, but even then, most (71%) of rural women engaged in the market economy consider that they could spend more time on income generating activities1.
There are no social contraints to women fishing per se. Some communities or island groups place restrictions on the mode of fishing however (such as use of bows and arrows, spears, underwater spearguns).
Access to gear and equipment:
Women are the biggest users of light handlines. Often they do not have the money to buy more expensive fishing gear, yet in some areas (notably Efate, south-eastern Santo) women do use fishing nets and occasionally boats with outboard motors, and canoes. The gear either belongs to their husbands, themselves, or a relative. Women in these areas however, are more likely to have income from sale of market produce, salaried employment, and be more educated. So may their husbands and relatives.
The price of fishing equipment is prohibitive to lower income earners (here, women). The price of a gillnet from a Chinese store in Santo starts at 12,000 vt but usually from 16,000 vt. Cast nets cost more, 18,000 vt. The price of an esky in Santo is 20,000 vt (small), 40,000 (medium), 50,000 (big); in Tanna the price is 45,000 vt (small), 50,000 vt (medium). All gear is imported and so incurs a 16-17% tax. Women do not have the money for an esky, therefore they transport fish (e.g. mangrou) to market in a rice bag with resultant poor quality. Ice (in Tanna) is 600 vt/block; at Litslits it is 400 vt/block; at the FTC in Santo it is 375 vt/block and 500 vt/1.5 blocks, crushed.
In the absence of appropriate gear or where tabus restrict access to inshore waters, women may use natural poisons (such as narvel) more frequently because of women's need to provide for the nutritional and economic well-being of their families. Women in most villages the consultant that they use natural ichthyocides for fish harvesting perhaps the only 'custom' fishing method still used, and frequently. Where women have access to the reefs and narvel they will continue to exploit the fish resource. With increasing human population, the environmental impact of fishing with poisons is likely to become significant near high population areas and adjacent to closed inshore waters.
Lack of ice plants and generators (electricity) is an impediment to fisheries business. It impacts on men as well as women; and affects the possibility of Lamap women (e.g.) earning a better income from fishing and of Futuna residents selling fish.
Loss of fish resources:
Reduction in fish stocks impacts on inshore fishers' success in harvesting and therefore earning money. Over-harvesting of freshwater naura, mangrou and mangrove oysters for sale were mentioned in chapter 4. Other common causes of reduced fish inshore resources include:
pollution from logging (e.g. north-west Aneityum; Ambai, off south-east Santo) and hydro-scheme(?) (namarai becoming scarce in Sarakata River);
urbanisation (rubbish dumps),
increasing human population (the women in south Aneityum having to fish for longer on the reefs; tabus are being placed throughout the islands not just to protect trochus and greensnail stocks but because all resources appear to be in decline. Especially evident near Vila (Ifira Island), Banks (Mote Lava), north Efate). Even then, customary marine tenure 'doesn't work at night'; and
gear efficiency (almost everywhere, people said there are too many gillnets and/or that they kill everything - e.g. the Banks people at Houchard Plantation, the women at Uripiv, women at Nakere village (south Santo))
Transport to markets and marketing
Transport to markets is an issue that affects men as well as women. UNICEF3 and Bowie2 state that there is no transport infrastructure to bring produce from producing areas to local or regional markets. Non-produce areas experience a shortage of produce and producing areas experience a shortage of cash. This is one reason for the high Vanuatu consumption of imported foods3: the absence of a local food distribution and marketing system. Imported foods get good distribution and marketing and local food prices remain high.
The lack of formal infrastructure to get goods from the airport/wharf to the marketplace has another 'down-side' in that urban family members provide that service - but because proper accounts are not kept, what is perceived as insufficient payment is returned to the rural genesis. People reported that sometimes an order is sent to the village with promise of high returns. After paying the airfreight, the fisher/seller actually gets less than he was told he would - so he loses interest. The problem may be with his urban family link. Middlemen fees are also high: Litslits people receive 200vt/one dozen live oysters, but the middleman charges the buyer 800 vt/one dozen.
The consultant enquired about freight rates from Vanair. Apart from the high freight charges from the more distant islands, concessional rates are only granted after 12 months' of continuous business. Even then, the discounts (10% if above 45 kg but less than 100 kg per week; 15% if more than 100 kg per week - and this quantity has to be guaranteed) are very negative. It appears that Vanair is unwilling to assist small producers of any consumable item in the country. The Vanair pilots often help - not only in acting as courier but also in turning a blind eye to the 'unacceptable' plan packaging of coconut baskets.
Land and water transport cost are also prohibitive. The speedboat from north Efate islands to the mainland costs 5,000 vt one way, and the road cost is 4-5,000 vt from there into Vila. In Santo transport from (e.g. Port Olry) is 2,000 vt. Time to market is another constraint, particularly so when post-harvest handling is poor.
Marketing of fish can be done more easily in south-east Santo and Efate (roads, urban demand), than it can from or in the other islands. Although there appears to be a demand for fish in inland areas which may be partly met by people selling from small trucks and eskies the limited cash in urban areas makes such marketing irregular because the fishers can get more money by sending to the towns.
It is noteworthy that whereas the government offers fuel and ice subsidies for commercial fishing, there are no support services for subsistence and artisanal fishing performed in the absence of motorised gear. Charges for ice are made when fishers sell their catches at recognised markets (e.g. Natai) or middlemen and receive proof of the sale: but for sales in rural markets or communities - proof is not so easy to reveal.
Money and credit (financial):
Women are not prevented from owning, leasing or trading property, and they are not restricted in access to credit. However,- the level of equity required often constrains women's business enterprise; and their relative lack of experience as borrowers, their lack of security (e.g. possessions) and the novelty of women running a business often work against them with credit providers such as banks (pers. comm., Department of Industry, Trade & Commerce).
It is not very easy to get large financial assistance in the village in lieu of a bank loan. Women usually either raise capital from selling extra food at the market or borrow money from their families (up to 2,000 vt) to start small businesses. Only 12% of women in business have borrowed from either a commercial bank or a credit union, and only 4% from the Development Bank1; and 83% of women borrowed less than 10,000 vt [this would exclude them from most bank lending - see below]. Women with lower incomes borrow more frequently than do those with higher incomes, and 29% of borrowers earned less than 500 vt per week1. When women pay back the family, they usually deposit money earned from the business into a village credit scheme and this (according to the Women's Business Unit) is where their business fails: the problem of relationships and credit. The WBU says that poorly educated women do not know the advantage of depositing in a bank account.
Women-run businesses are rare in rural areas - especially those distant areas infrequently serviced. In a recent 6-week period at the Santo branch of the ANZ Bank there were no enquiries nor applications for loans by women unaccompanied by their husbands, and very rarely by wife-and-husband teams. At the Vila branch of the bank however, there are on average 2-3 applications for personal loans from women per week and occasional ones for business (e.g. a kava business). This phenomenon is less one of distance and ability, but of the level of equity required by commercial banks and the Development Bank. More urban women may be better educated than rural women and hence have better employment, thus they are more likely to be able to meet the loan requirements.
The Development Bank identified the failure of fishing loans on the following courses: having the loan project as the only income source, bad management (a major cause) and the irregularity of fishing.
ANZ Bank. The minimum equity and level of loan preferred is 30,000 vt each. The interest rate usually ranges over 15-16% and the term varies from 12 months to three years. However, there is no requirement for the borrower to have an account with the ANZ. The bank has guidance officers for Ni-Vanuatu loans and also uses the Department of Rural Business & Cooperatives officers as an advisory service on any loans.
National Bank Vanuatu. The minimum equity and level of loans is 50,000 vt each. The interest rate is 17%, and the term is two years. Not surprisingly, the NBV had no loans to women only. The borrower must also hold an account with the bank and have a good account record.
Development Bank. The minimum equity is 25% of the total project cost (which can be in kind), the loan is guaranteed and credit lines are available. The average interest rate is 16% and the term vanes from short-term 12 month loans to 15 years. The Bank stated that its high interest rate is a consequence of the high interest charged by its lending organisations, (mainly the Asian Development Bank and the National Provident Fund). Because of the high cost of supervising loans in the islands which are often for smaller amounts, the Bank is forced to concentrate on large loans (on main islands) to meet its borrowings.
Vanuatu Credit Union League. The credit union operates mainly in rural areas and is open to anyone who is willing to pay the annual fee amounting to 6.500 vt/month. Borrowers must be members of the credit union. Loans vary in size and match the level of equity 'dollar for dollar'. The credit union has officers in al; of the islands who assess and visit ventures. Some women have loans with the credit union, mainly for tourism, retail stores, sewing machine repair, peanut planting, school fees and labour costs.
Small loans schemes:
Women benefit most from having access to micro-credit or small loans schemes. Unfortunately, there are no such schemes operating in Vanuatu - apart from the Vanuatu Credit Union League. Loans schemes operated specifically for women are no longer available. The consultant heard of two:
South Pacific Commission. Sometime in the early 1990s the South Pacific Commission despatched a parcel of money to each member country to be divided up and used as principal for loans to women. An amount of c. 300,000 vt was allocated for Vanuatu and was sent to the VNCW headquarters. In 1994 the VNCW sent 75,000 vt of the grant to the Vila Town Council of Women to be divided into small loan lots of 10,000-15,000 vt; and in 1995 they VNCW sent another 50,000 vt to the Vila Town Council of Women. According to the Vila Town Council, loans were dispensed but very few were successful and the Council is having trouble in recovering money. The consultant was told that no money was sent to the island councils for disbursement. The women's affairs officer at ESCAP informed the consultant that the remaining money is in an interest-bearing account in Vila.
Match program. This program was initiated by the Canadian Government and operated in the late 1980s-early 1990s. The capital for the program came from the Canada Fund and it was administered by the VNCW(?) The program worked on the simple system of matching the equity put up by the applicant. One report from the VNCW said that the program was successful while another report stated that the program was suspended because of misappropriation. The consultant met one person who had had a loan with the program.
Having information about something, or knowing where to find the information, are very important assets to increased participation in any activity.
Some NGOs and government departments have(?) produced information for women in written (brochures) and verbal (radio) form. If the women cannot read however, there is no use in producing brochures in Bislama, and (as with many western Pacific nations) because the culture is an oral one the concept of reading is unsuitable. Radio programs are limited in use if women are not at home (e.g. they are in the gardens) and/or do not have radios, or the radio has run out of batteries. Bowie2 cited the government charging a fee for radio programs as another example of information flow being impeded as less programs are broadcasts
On fisheries resources:
There is little information on Vanuatu fisheries resources that women and communities can use in most inshore fisheries. A report on a biological survey by Done and Navin7 was published by A.I.M.S. in 1990 and their work encompased selected nearshore habitats in several, widely separated islands. Profiles of Vanuatu's fisheries resources were prepared by Bell and Amos8 and published in 1994 by FFA. For many inshore resources (e.g. lobsters, freshwater prawns, land crabs, oysters. ornamental and edible shells, octopus, baitfish (including mangrou)) there is sparse information on species, their distribution, production and stock status. The Fisheries Department is limited in its ability to provide information on the level of the subsistence fishery, nor offer suggestions on where fishing could take place and for what.
Lack of information on the prevalence of fish poisoning (ciguatera) in Vanuatu impacts directly on women's commercial fishing opportunities (for handline caught fish) and brings increased pressure on other fish stocks (e.g. drop-lined fish). There is a common belief amongst purchasers and consumers of fish in Vanuatu that 'all reef fish have ciguatera'. This is not the case. Akimichi9, for example, remarked that few reef fish a. e marketed because of the ciguatoxin.
There is very insufficient extension work from the Fisheries Department to advise communities on sustainable fishing practices for inshore stocks nor offer information on reef and inshore management. What there has been has been targeted at men. In an article describing traditional marine based management of trochus and greensnail stocks in Vanuatu, Amos10 (p. 16) writes: 'Research Officers arrange for further informal discussions with resource owners and fishermen, about the importance of harvesting only legal sized shells. (These discussions are usually held around bowls of kava.)' and 'As part of the education program, a National Trochus Workshop was organised by the Research Section... for chiefs and resource owners, fishermen and Provincial Government Representatives...[to]...increase the participants' awareness, knowledge and understanding of the marine resources'. Most Ni-Vanuatu women cannot own resources, none are chiefs, fishermen nor(?) provincial representatives, and they very rarely join men in drinking bowls of kava Yet in many islands of Vanuatu the women gather trochus (sometimes also greensnail) alongside the men, their fishing practices are more likely than men's to impact on trochus and greensnail stocks, and their familiarity with the inshore environment surely indicates that they would be eager and informed participants of management awareness programs.
The recent rural women's fisheries course run at the FTC was the first course offered by the Fisheries Department specifically for women. Unfortunately, its course content was almost entirely on the traditional 'men's fishing' methods and few areas and had little relevance to women's capacity building in fishing.
Women do not receive appropriate instruction on fish quality (especially of invertebrates) and advice on new ways to utilise fish. Skills in both of these areas help to sustain resources by increasing earnings from the harvest. Fish quality training courses have been run in the past (New Zealand funding) which women could have attended but they were aimed at boat owners and high value fish marketing. Bêche-demer processing was taught only to men (pers. comm., VANGO).
" We know how to fish, but we don't know what to do then "
Literacy and numeracy:
Lack of language and numeracy skills impedes womens' abilities in participating in more economic activities. Not having these skills limits women to sell only items such as handicrafts and garden produce - even locally, because the women may speak only tok-ples (10% of the population speak only their local language4: 1989 census). Ability to communicate at least in the lingua franca, Bislama, is important.
Understanding of credit, profit-and-loss and business:
The consultant heard explanations from many women of their marketing strategies. Understanding of profit and loss varied. Many women completely negated their transport costs to and from market, their purchases of drink or food to eat and their ablutions fee (i e. they made losses). Taking a lot of produce to the market spread the transport fee although it meant the women had to stay longer at the market. The market fee was identified and 'counteracted' by the women staying at the market through the night and by having a lot of produce to sell; yet at midday on Saturdays much produce is re-loaded onto vehicles for return to the villages. The long hours at the market particularly disadvantages older or pregnant women and mothers of young children. The women from Erakor, Mele and other near-Vile communities harvest ark shells, price them at 400 vt per basket and take the unsold baskets home daily until they are unsaleable arid have to be thrown away. While the women recognise the waste of the resource, they rarely break the lot into smaller baskets and sell for smaller price. Some women will only harvest 'on order'. Because demand is inelastic in the market the price charged for items is fairly consistent and 'value for money' is difficult to achieve. However, some women are compensating for the time spent in making laplap by selling it with chicken wings (imported frozen in bags): the women cannot get a fair price from the market for the extra work of catching and frying fish or octopus to accompany the laplap. The lady in north Efate who prepares nine pieces of laplap made from one nawita (i.e. eight legs and the head) and sells each piece for 150 vt was not so unusual: women in Wala area (Malekula) do the same yet only charge 20 vt/piece. Women at Santo market offer coconut crabs for sale at comparatively low prices but often too high for Ni-Vanuatu consumers while men get more money by selling coconut crabs direct to hotels and restaurants. Many women consider that selling vegetables, weaving or shells is more profitable than selling fish. For coastal women this concept is misplaced and it may be the result of societal expectations (e.g. gardening is traditional, fishing is men's work). To be sure, marketing is socially enjoyable and a change from daily village life. Of women engaged in selling, 81% fresh vegetables and fruit, 63% raised beef, pigs and fowl for sale, 60% sold cooked food, 36% sold mats and baskets and 27% sold shells (this activity was mainly in Efate and Malekula)1.
As discussed in chapter 4, there is an increasing need for women in the Vanuatu society to understand the importance of earning and making money. Store-bought items, school fees and transport costs affect the woman's area of responsibility - that of provider. Where many households do not have an annual plan for consumption, saving and expenditure of their cash2 the need for them to operate under one is now there, especially where there is limited cash in circulation (e.g. in areas away from tourists). The concepts of profit, credit and fair profit margins is not readily understood by many women2.
Women involved in market activities interviewed by the WBU1 felt they had some problems with record keeping, marketing, stocktaking, costing/pricing, advertising and raw material purchase; and there were distinct variations between islands. Overall, Efate women felt they had no problems with any of these skills, while most Tanna women rated every one as 'difficult'. The consultant suggests this reflects the relative urbanisation (familiarity with western-kind of selling) of the two islands.
Irrelevant training. Bowie2 noted that many women were keen to develop incomegenerating activities but most bad no idea of how to proceed. Those women who did have an idea of their inadequacy identified business and literacy training, start-up materials, a marketplace and better transport as impediments Women who discussed with the consultant the possibility of earning more income from the sale of fish products invariably also identified ignorance of business skills as the greatest impediment to their undertaking being worthwhile.
Only 9% of respondents to the WBU1 survey of women involved in marketing had received some kind of training. The training had been delivered mainly by the VNCW, churches, DWA and WBU, all other NGOs accounting for 19%. Training included leadership (3%), business awareness (2%), other business training (3%), water tank construction (3%) and sewing (7%). The training from churches included prayer/bible study.'This may be more indicative of what is to offer than what women are interested in.' (WBU1: 37). If 91% of training given Hence in rural areas, the opportunities for women to move outside their traditional roles into paid employment are few2.
Women's subordinate role in Vanuatu society ill equips them for the hard world of commerce in which men predomate. Their societal position, if accompanying them into business, acts as a direct constraint to success. Having self-esteem, inner strength and courage are personal skills which support women and men in all aspects of their life. Lack of confidence, hesitancy, shyness and little familiarity with the 'new world' of business were identified by bank officers and the Department of Industry as constraints to women's taking a more active part in business.
More Vila Ni-Vanuatu female residents have car or motor-bike driving licences than have their counterparts in Santo and the rest of Efate. The consultant estimates that, even while all of these women would far outnumber all other licensed women in the remainder of Vanuatu their total number would not be more than 10% of all motor vehicle licence holders in the country. A similar comparison could be made for drivers of outboard motors. This discrepancy cannot be dismissed simply by observing that there are few roads or that women do not have money to buy their own vehicles or boats with outboard motors, as some women are permitted to use their husband's or relatives' nets and other valuable equipment, and there is the example of the c. 10% of licensed women.
Being self-mobile is a great advantage to people in business. Being unable to drive a motor vehicle or an outboard motor impedes women's independent participation in the business of catching and marketing fish, as it means they have to rely on others (usually men). Women's lack of confidence, access to training and, possibly, social displeasure (rural areas) are important factors determining women's independent vehicular mobility.
A women's group a Uripiv Island has a boat donated by a church which the women use as an inter-island ferry to take produce to market in Norsup. There are several male sellers of fish to inland areas (Pentecost, north-east Santo, south-east Malekula)- they buy ice (sometimes) and drive to the end of the roads, selling the fish to churches, schools and government centres (blow a conch shell or toot the car horn). If women had driving licences they could do that too.
Women lacking the support of families and particularly husbands when attempting to move into business often fail (pers. comm., various sources).
In spite of existing policy guidelines, women's issues and the development of support networks do not receive a high priority from the national government. What support there is is largely influenced by the policies of external forces - i.e. other national governments and aid organisations, Support networks for women were not well developed in 19913 and the situation may be little improved. This is despite the Third National Development Plan (1992-96), section 2. 18. statement that: 'The overall goal for the development of women in Vanuatu is to realize the potential of women as partners and beneficiaries of the development process, and to promote their full and equal participation in local, national and international affairs.'
Poor development of support networks is largely due to a lack of resources (particularly financial) being apportioned to women's issues, and a lack of coordination of activity. It may also be that planners, senior officials and community leaders are unaware of women's and children's issues as distinct from those of the (male-psyche) community. According to UNICEF3 (p.20) the 'distinct gap between policy and legislation on the one hand, and what is actually carried out on the other' is complicated by this issue.
The DWA, VNCW, church groups, other NGOs and some government departments organise programs and activities in support of women (or communities) in Vanuatu (chapter 6). Most of these groups work in isolation and their efforts are disparate hence they are weakened and unfocused. The women's groups also largely fail to utilise the services of the VANGO which are structured so as to encourage a cohesive, combined approach to issues. One demonstration of uncoordinated activity and poor financial resources management is the duplication of DWA and VNCW work in the islands - or rather, what seems to be the work of the DWA and the role-playing of the VNCW. The VNCW's head office in Vila gives scant financial support to its island councils of women which then call upon the DWA officers to perform their work.
Bowie's2 report on the needs of rural women contains a number of suggestions on how to improve the VNCW's and other NGO's service to communities.
Financial cut-backs have impacted on all of the national government's departments including those that service women (e.g. DWA, Department of Health) and are relevant to their needs (e.g. Cooperatives and Rural Business). For example, until 1989 there were eight DWA officers servicing the rural community outs: de of Vila but this was cut back to four (one each for Torba+Penama+Sanma. Shefa. Melampa and Tafea provinces) with re-arrangement of portfolios and provinces. More recently, the government has not agreed to a request from the DWA and the Development Bank for the appointment of a women's finance manager to develop a micro-credit scheme for women.
The national government may also view women's development and related programmes as different to national/ community issues and not deserving of attention - i.e. a side issue.
1 Women's Business Unit (1995). A study of women in micro business: their resources and their needs. A study done by the Women's Business Unit of the Department of Cooperative & Rural Business Development in cooperation with Statistics Office. Republic of Vanuatu. 46 pp plus.
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 analysis of children and women in Vanuatu. Vanuatu Government. 97 pp.
4 Mackenzie-Reur, V.L. (1995). Statistical profile on the situation of women in Vanuatu. ESCAP, Vila. 67 pp.
5 Tuara, P. N.(1995). The participation of women in fisheries in the South Pacific. 4 pp. Paper presented at the SPC regional workshop on the role of women in fisheries development, Iloilo City, Philippines. 17-21 July 1995
6 Tuara, P. N.(1996). Women's fisheries development section: supporting women in fisheries. Paper presented at the South Pacific Commission Twenty-sixth Regional Technical Meeting on Fisheries, Noumea, New Caledonia, 5-9 August 1996.SPC/ Fisheries Information Paper 11. 5 pp.
7 Done, T.J. and K.F. Navin (1990). Vanuatu marine resources: report of a biological survey. A project of the Australian International Development and Assistance Bureau. A.I.M.S., Townsville. 272 pp.
8 Bell, L. A. J. and M. I. Amos (1994). Republic of Vanuatu fisheries resources profiles. FFA Report 93/49. Honiara, Solomon Islands: Forum Fisheries Agency.
9 Akimichi, T. (1990). Inshore fisheries and marine resource management in Vanuatu: an anthropological study. pp. 195-140, in Report on a technical and socio-economic baseline studyfor fisheries development in Oceania, with special reference to reef and lagoon resources and aquaculture. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
10 Amos. M. (1993). Traditionally based marine management systems in Vanuatu. SPC Traditional Marine Resources Management and Knowledge Information Bulletin, no 2: 14-17.