General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

International Women’s Day | Fishing for gender equality in a COVID-19 world


This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) falls at a time where women across the globe are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fisheries and aquaculture sectors have been particularly affected by the crisis. Although the data are limited, a significant amount of the workforce in these sectors is comprised of women. Most women carry out non-vessel based activities, including gleaning, processing and marketing, but the number of women in leadership positions is low.

The women in these sectors have had to bear the brunt of the economic impacts of COVID-19 and are further exposed to the virus in their essential roles. In addition to their employment commitments, the majority of women have taken up a disproportionate amount of domestic work and unpaid care. This is rolling back the progress that has been made towards gender equality and economic security for women.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the essential role of women in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors has been downplayed. However, women have been findings ways to uplift each other for years.

For example, Morocco has established structured landing sites (called “points de débarquement aménagés” or “PDAs”) in order to improve both the working and social conditions of small-scale fishers. These PDAs provide a space for fishers, where they can store fishing equipment, conduct meetings, sell fish products and use the space for their personal needs. 

PDAs are also a place for people to come together. The women’s cooperative, Belyounesh Wave, is actively engaging more women in the fisheries sector with non-vessel-based activities, such as mending nets. By gaining their own space in a male-dominated field, women are provided with the tools and trainings they need to work safely and successfully in the industry.

“For me, the sea represents a job that I do with passion. It’s my life since I’ve been raised near the sea and I raised my children here as well. The sea is where we work, we don’t work elsewhere,” stated Fatima Mekhnas, President of Belyounesh Wave.

Women are often underrepresented in official statistics, potentially undermining their access to social protection programmes or resulting in their marginalization in decision-making processes (SOMFI 2020). However, local initiatives, such as the women's cooperative in Morocco, are bringing to light the essential role of women and equipping them with the tools they need for success.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the important contribution of women in fisheries and aquaculture”, says Abdellah Srour, GFCM Executive Secretary. “Let us use IWD as an opportunity to celebrate the role of women while identifying the much-needed work to be done to work towards gender equality.”


The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March in 1975, during International Women’s Year. This year's theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” Learn more here.