Climate change is having an impact on fisheries, habitats and biodiversity in the Arafura and Timor Seas region, with greater impact on people’s lives and livelihoods expected in future. This will further exacerbate existing gender and other social inequalities, with women and other vulnerable groups bearing the brunt of negative consequences.

Prevailing social conditions and gendered labour divisions in the fishing sector tend to provide women with less access to income, assets, resources, technology, training and decision-making power than men. These disparities can potentially limit adaptive capacity and expose women to greater risk, making them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

To respond to the existing gender-specific constraints in the management and utilisation of marine resources, in September 2021, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme conducted Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) surveys in the project’s working sites in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

Eighty respondents were interviewed for the survey; 15 from Papua New Guinea, 32 from Timor-Leste, and 33 from Indonesia. Of those who were interviewed, 59% were male, 41% were female, and about 35% identify as minorities. For ease and efficiency, the survey team used Kobo Toolbox for field data collection.

There were a number of challenges encountered during data collection for the GESI survey. For example, in some cases women were not permitted to participate, because the person conducting the survey was male.

Women play a crucial role throughout the fish value chain, providing labour in both commercial and artisanal fisheries. However, until recently, gender analysis in fishing communities focused mainly on the different occupational roles of men and women. While the role of women in the management and utilisation of natural resources is generally acknowledged, their role does not carry the same recognition as that of men.

In 2018, almost 60 million people were engaged (on a full-time, part-time or occasional basis) in the primary sector of capture fisheries (39 million people) and aquaculture (20.5 million people). Of this group, women accounted for 14% of the total, with 19% working in aquaculture and 12% in capture fisheries (FAO, 2020). 

An enumerator interviewing a woman respondent in Merauke, Indonesia. Image credit: ATSEA-2 Programme

Fisheries resource management is increasingly being linked to all levels of the value chain in which men, women and minority groups have important roles to play. This survey will provide an information base for the project to improve women and minorities participation and decision making in marine and coastal resource protection.

The project is designed to ensure the participation of women and men with equal voice, which is in line with the gender equality and social inclusion strategies, guidance and standards of both UNDP and GEF. The ATSEA-2 Programme design is rated with Gender Marker Code 2 (GEN 02) to ensure that gender equality and women empowerment take place. Since its inception, the project has ensured that representation, participation, access and benefits are experienced by both men and women in various ATSEA-2 Programme activities.

(Thea Bohol)