Flexible Voluntary Contribution (FVC)

Reducing the gender gap in the fisheries sector for sustainable food systems in Small Island Developing States


Small Island Developing States (SIDS) include some of the world’s most remote countries that share a similar set of challenges, including susceptibility to natural disasters, limited resources and dependence on international trade, in addition to a common aspiration for sustainable development, improved living standards and the remediation of gender inequalities. Women represent 52 percent of the agricultural labour force in SIDS and are essential agents of change to ensure a shift to more efficient and climate-resilient food systems.

To contribute to the knowledge and evidence base on gender, agri-food value chain development and climate-resilient agriculture in SIDS, the Gender Team from FAO’s Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division recently organized a webinar within the framework of the Flexible Multi Partner Mechanism (FMM) Subprogramme, Empowering women in food systems and strengthening the local capacities and resilience of SIDS in the agri-food sector.

This webinar, titled “Reducing the gender gap in the fisheries sector for sustainable food systems in SIDS”, provided policymakers, civil society and development practitioners with knowledge and evidence on the interconnection between gender, and fisheries and aquaculture in sustainable food systems, focusing on the development of initiatives to empower women in SIDS. The main objective of this webinar was to raise awareness about gender issues in fisheries and to share success stories and innovative practices supported by the FMM Resource Partners, which are developed and implemented in SIDS, in relation to current global topics such as climate change.

The event was moderated by Angelica Jacome Daza, Director of the Office of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries at FAO. Opening remarks were provided by Audun Lem, Deputy Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of FAO, Cynthia McDougall, Gender Research Lead of WorldFish and Benjamin Davis, Director of Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division of FAO.

Audun Lem started by reminding the importance to consider the gender dimensions of fisheries and aquaculture, in particular in small-scale fisheries where women are very active. “The lack of recognition of women’s additional contribution has deterred their participation in fisheries resource management and policy decision making”. He also reiterated the commitment of the Division to mainstream gender in all its activities.

Cynthia McDougall shared key pitfalls on this topic: gender is being framed instrumentally, in service of other outcomes, rather than as having intrinsic value, an end goal itself; policies and programmes tend to focus on “women” (only) instead of gender, adopting most of the time a single scale, omitting the “community” factor, essential in fisheries sector investment, or neglecting other aspects of social identity.

After recalling the efforts of FAO to close the gender gap in agriculture and fisheries, Benjamin Davis mentioned the Food Systems Summit, which drew attention on the role of women, youth, indigenous peoples and smallholders in this process. “The Summit opened the discussion and the debate around gender here”.  He invited then all participants to consider the existing rhetoric but to also acknowledge the practice to properly include gender in the fisheries sector.

After these inspiring opening remarks, Angelica gave the floor to Kate Barclay, Professor at the University of Technology Sidney. She focused on a project engaging fisheries managers in Pacific islands countries on gender equity and social inclusion through a handbook, which aims at showing how fisheries managers could incorporate gender into their work. Then, she highlighted three important topics: make women’s fishing in aquaculture more visible, how gender mainstreaming in fisheries management is essential, and finally, why cultural appropriateness is key, especially in SIDS.

As National Gender Specialist in FAO Cabo Verde, Claudia Rodrigues presented the activities undertaken so far in the country under the Subprogramme Empowering women in SIDS, also aligned with the Coastal Fisheries Initiative in West Africa. In addition to fields activities to empower female and male fishmongers, a National Gender Equality in Fishery Sector Strategy is currently being developed and will be implemented in 2022. She detailed the context in which it was established, the assessment phase through quantitative and qualitative data collection in focus groups, and the institutional process until approval. This strategy is the first of its kind in SIDS and would represent a big advancement in gender equality and women’s empowerment in the fisheries sector.

Based in Barbados, in the Caribbean, Maria Pena shared a sample of work of the Gender in Fisheries Team (GIFT) of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies. She explained that a gender focus is needed in the sector, considering the persistent data and knowledge gaps on gender in small scale fisheries, and the gender characteristics being poorly documented. Through concrete examples in the region, she emphasized on the past activities of GIFT, from research on gender in fisheries value chains to trainings and capacity building for female and male fishers, and presented the Blue Economy in Action, the new research project of the Team.

After a Q&A session, where attendees showed a high interest in the replication of the presented initiatives in other SIDS and countries, Angelica Jacome Daza closed the webinar and invited all attendees to reflect on how to effectively reduce the gender gap in the fisheries sectors for better and sustainable food systems in SIDS. The webinar counted with 124 attendees from 45 countries, including FAO HQ and decentralized offices, governments, universities, research institutes, NGOS, and practitioners.

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