Women play a significant role in the fishing supply chain, processing, smoking, and ensuring fish reaches markets and tables. Yet their contribution is often overlooked.
“Women play key roles in fisheries around the world. To ignore those roles is to see only half the picture,” said IMO’s Juvenal Shiundu, during a side event on Women in Fisheries at the Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on safety of fishing vessels in Torremolinos, Spain (21-23 October).
“Available data does not capture the multidimensional nature of the work undertaken by women in fisheries and few policies are developed with women in mind,” Mr. Shiundu said.
To address the lack of visibility of women in fisheries, IMO has undertaken an online raising-awareness initiative under the hashtag #WomenInFisheries including an online photowall.
Speakers at the event highlighted good examples of work being done to support women in fisheries, including organization into networks and associations to give them a stronger voice as well as training. The Hon Emma Metieh Glassco, Director General, National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, Liberia, highlighted practical steps to increase visibility of women in fisheries, including organizing fishmongers’ associations and practical training on salting of fish and using improved smoking ovens (a project supported by Iceland).
Ms. Cherie Morris, representative of the Women in Fisheries Network, Fiji, said the network was working to give women in fisheries a voice at community level.
The network has also secured funding to collect data. The importance of, and the need for, data was echoed by several speakers, including Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President, World Maritime University (WMU).
“We need to produce data and research on fishing – on fishers and the role that they play and from there look at how we can lift them from poverty,” Dr. Doumbia-Henry said. Current estimates suggest that about 40 million are engaged in fishing, with only 15% being women. Further research and data collection are necessary to set a benchmark or baseline of the current situation.
But women play an important role in small scale fisheries in developing countries, often making up the majority of the people involved. Speakers also emphasized the need to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
This has to include a bottom up approach, including and involving the women at the shore side part of the fisheries supply chain. Further work is needed, to build partnerships, to achieve greater inter-agency collaboration between IMO-FAO-ILO to improve visibility and recognition of women in the fisheries sector and to support the organization of women in fisheries into networks.
Also speaking at the event were: Jane Njeri Grytten, General Manager, Pweza Fishing Operations Management Ltd, Kenya; Maria del Mar Saez Torres of the Spanish Network of Women in the Fisheries Sector (REMSP); Alicia Mosteiro Cabanelas, Fisheries Officer, FAO (Moderator); Christine Bader, ILO; and Helen Buni, IMO (Facilitator).
The event was organized by IMO and the Government of Spain and sponsored by The Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China.