More than 59 million people worldwide are engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture. However, the role of women in this sector remains very minimal, at only 14% (FAO, 2020), even though women can play the same roles and have just the same level of impact as men. This lack of recognition can have implications for the wider economy.
To that end, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme has guidelines and standards for gender equity and social inclusion. This standard affords women and men the same voice and equal rights, as is appropriate. These standards will subsequently be applied to the programmes operating under ATSEA-2. However, to ensure that implementation is successful, basic information is needed to map gender issues at the target village community level, local government, central government and society in general, especially Rote Ndao and Aru. From 25 May – 1 June 2021, ATSEA-2 and partners conducted an initial assessment to collect data on gender issues in the two districts.
Prior to collecting data, the ATSEA-2 team and partners held a meeting with stakeholders in the local village. This meeting set out to explain the activities of the ATSEA-2 team in the village.
Based on an initial assessment from the field team, there is evidence of gender segregation in the community. Domestic roles such as cooking and taking care of the household are all left to the women, while the men are generally perceived as the main breadwinners. However, women are also able to earn supplementary income by fishing around the coast or selling their husbands’ catch. Meanwhile, male fishermen tend to catch fish by sailing on the open sea.
Gender segregation is not an issue for the community, but it becomes problematic when women have limited access to natural resources. However, this hegemony has been ingrained since childhood. An understanding of fishing, swimming and marine navigation was only passed down to boys. Therefore, when girls grow up, they do not have the same capacity as their male counterparts, even though they both utilise the ocean. This becomes a problem on the occasions when husbands are lost at sea and the role of the fisherman’s wife then changes into that of the main breadwinner. As a result of their limited abilities, these women then have to sell their catch around the coast or buy the catch of male fishermen to resell. This condition results in a decrease in sales volume, which has implications for family income and places women in a vulnerable position. Climate change and the destruction of ecosystems also affects the condition of women, as these issues have led to a decline in fishery products in coastal areas. Conversely, when men lose their wives and are faced with their own limited capacity for handling domestic issues, they tend to remarry.
The absence of women’s voices in the community makes it difficult for them to gain access to assistance and training from the government. This is in contrast to the men, whose gender makes access considerably more straightforward. However, equal access to tiered education has been seen between boys and girls. This can be a breath of fresh air in the struggle to achieve gender equality.
The results of this assessment will subsequently be used as a baseline to support the involvement of women in training and activities held by the ATSEA-2 Programme.