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FISH4ACP virtual tour puts a spotlight on women in aquatic value chains

22 December 2022, Rome - Women play a major role in fisheries and aquaculture, but their voices are not always heard. FISH4ACP’s virtual tour zoomed in on women in aquatic value chains and sparked a lively debate on how working smarter, not harder can empower women.  

The online event kicked off with a video on The Gambia, where oyster production is mostly run by women, before moving on to Zambia, showing how women deal with the processing and selling of kapenta from Lake Tanganyika. 

“These examples shed a light on the challenges women face in fisheries and aquaculture,” said Evangelina Blanco González, Programme Manager of the European Union (EU) Delegation to The Gambia. She explained that 85 per cent of the new EU’s external assistance will contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2025, and added: “Gender equality is a fundamental principle of the EU.”  

“Women are crucial to fulfilling FAO’s mandate of a world free of hunger,” said FAO’s Fishery Officer Jennifer Gee. She underlined that women empowerment has to be achieved through equal rights and decision-making power, and concluded: “This means: nothing about us without us.”  

The sixth edition of FISH4ACP’s virtual tour was held on 13 December 2022 and brought together 160 people - fish workers, value chain stakeholders, experts, donors and the development community.  

They heard from Mariam Ngende, a Fisheries Officer at the municipality of Kigoma on the Tanzanian shore of Lake Tanganyika, who spoke about the difficulties women in the kapenta sector face in accessing resources and services. She also talked about the sexual harassment that women are exposed to, while their work is often heavy, unstable and underpaid. 

Elisabeth Badjie, an oyster producer from The Gambia and youth leader of oyster association TRY, voiced similar concerns and explained why so few women own a canoe. “They can’t afford it,” she said. “Women need to feed their families, pay their children’s school fees. When that is done, there’s not much left to buy a boat.”  

The constraints of female fish workers in The Gambia and Zambia resonate in aquatic value chains around the world, said Suzanne Kuria, fish farm owner and Vice-President of the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET).  

If women want to strengthen their position in fisheries and aquaculture, she said, they need to develop the business-side of their work – formalize the business, obtain ownership of assets. “It’s not about working harder, but working smarter,” Suzanne Kuria said. The answer lies in the collectivity, according to her: “You can’t do it alone. Women need to come together.” 

The virtual tour demonstrated the critical role that women play in fish value chains, said Nina Neubecker, Senior Policy Officer of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “Women’s empowerment is key to local food security, family prosperity and the long-term sustainability of aquatic ecosystems,” she added in closing the event.  

The virtual tour is an online conversation on fisheries and aquaculture value chain development hosted by FISH4ACP, a global initiative led by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and implemented by FAO with funding from the EU and BMZ aimed at making aquatic value chains stronger.