Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication

Gender transformative trainings in Asian small-scale fisheries: insights from the Philippines and Indonesia


Written by Matteo Luzzi, Gender Consultant, FAO


Over the last few weeks, South-east Asia has been the focus of FAO’s work targeting the achievement of gender equality in small-scale fisheries. As part of the project “Implementing the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines for gender equitable and climate resilient food systems and livelihoods”, the Philippines and Indonesia had the opportunity to hold two different trainings on the use of gender transformative approaches in the context of small-scale fisheries.

These trainings have been designed to fit the strategic needs of both countries with regards to the integration of a gender perspective in all the technical work impacting small-scale fisheries at national level; at the same time, the trainings are supporting the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines).

According to the SSF Guidelines, “All parties should recognize that achieving gender equality requires concerted efforts by all and that gender mainstreaming should be an integral part of all small-scale fisheries development strategies. These strategies to achieve gender equality require different approaches in different cultural contexts and should challenge practices that are discriminatory against women.” §8.1, SSF Guidelines

In line with the proposed actions guiding the gender thematic area within the SSF Guidelines, the above mentioned project aims to reduce poverty and improve food security and nutrition through more gender-equitable and climate resilient small-scale fisheries livelihoods and food systems: gender is therefore a significant component of the project, with specific activities designed to promote equal post-harvest practices and working conditions of women employed in the value chain – this includes capacity building of small-scale fisheries actors at local levels, but also targeting national partners at the ministry level. Indeed, in both cases, the trainings in Philippines and Indonesia not only provided a technical focus on gender transformative approaches (GTA), but also specific sessions aimed at raising awareness on the SSF Guidelines, their contents and their linkage with gender equality. 

In the Philippines, the gender transformative approaches training has been consequential to the initial mapping and capacity development work that has been targeting local small-scale fisheries organizations and women working in the fisheries sector. The 3-day training was held in the Province of Bukidnon, in the Northern Mindanao region, southern part of the Philippines, bringing together representatives from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental and selected Local Government Units (LGUs). Most of the participants were fisheries extension workers, gender focal points, Unit Heads and members of the LGUs’ Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Point System.

During the training participants had the opportunity to share insights and gain technical highlights on the use of a gender transformative approach throughout their day-to-day work activities, including the use of a gender-sensitive value chain perspective to break down gender-based constraints and formulation of related indicators.

To consolidate participants' knowledge, hands on activities were designed to practically implement the skills and concepts acquired during the training. Specifically, by designing a Gender and Development Plan, participants were given the opportunity to design gender transformative activities, which also included budget allocation and prioritization in a gender transformative manner.

“I am happy that, after the training on gender transformative approaches, I will be able to help improve the fisheries programs, activities and projects on small-scale fisheries using not only the lenses for gender sensitivity and responsiveness, but also the concepts for achieving gender transformative change.”, stated Ms. Mildred Buazon from the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Central Office.

Ensuring access to training and knowledge has been put at center stage also in Jakarta, Indonesia, where participants from Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), other relevant ministries, civil society organizations, FAO Indonesia programme team and local implementing partners have gathered to learn and discuss about the use of a gender transformative approach to mainstream gender in Indonesian fisheries sector. Consistently, in both trainings, participants had the opportunity to delve into the use of GTAs across different levels of technical work targeting small-scale fisheries sector. In Indonesia, participants were able to acquire  confidence in the use of such perspectives in a different variety of implementation, ranging from project formulation to national level planning efforts.

The concepts and perspectives related to gender issues in the fisheries sector were used to mainstream gender based on a practical approach, thus supporting the participants in their effort to re-think existing structures and frameworks in a gender transformative way. As a result of this process, it was possible to establish a space for open discussion about current gaps and potential needs for technical expertise to be emphasized for streamlining gender-related actions and activities across different ministries and/or organizations according to their respective mandates and objectives.

The most interesting topic that I learned during the training was about GFP (Gender Focal Point) systems. I have noted during the group work discussion that many institutions in Indonesia, including my office, do not have GFP who should be involved in budget preparation and monitoring and evaluation of related activities in each institution. I hope all institutions can have a gender focal point towards more transformative gender activities, especially in Indonesia” said Mr. Edy Widiantoro from the Fisheries Office of Banyuwangi District, Indonesia. 

In this regard, the GTA trainings can push for the deconstruction of structural gender inequalities by providing a perspective that builds on the identification of root causes and social norms to propose actions and activities addressing these underlying causes of inequalities and fostering long-lasting change towards gender equality. The potential of such training is linked to the idea at the basis of gender transformative approaches, which are grounded on tailored concepts and methodologies, as included in the JP GTA Compendium. The Compendium presents a detailed overview of main features and characteristics of GTA methodologies that are indeed designed to be flexible, adaptable and not fixed also in terms of methodologies and tools. Furthermore, the participatory approach used along with the aim for multi-layered impacts (individual, household, structural) of the GTAs make them the perfect tool for eradicating underlying norms and constructs that are the fuel for replicating inequalities: this is why it is crucial to allow small-scale fisheries actors, national institutions and implementing partners to be aware of these methodologies and approaches. In fact, these trainings aim to make the struggle towards gender equality much more attainable and effective in the longer term by putting transformative change at center stage and by pushing for more equal and sustainable value chains in the small-scale fisheries sector of each country.