Securing women’s fishing rights: a look at 5 South American coastal communities

Map of 5 sites

Country sites for the rights based management study. Source: Williams et al 2017 NAAFE presentation.

Rights1,2 and rights-based management (RBM) 3 have long been fundamental concepts examined in theory and practice in the search for sustainable and socially just fisheries management. However, few studies have engaged this discourse on the practical issue of women’s rights in fisheries. One exception is a study presented at the North American Association for Fisheries (NAFFE) conference in March 2017, by Jordan Williams and colleagues of the Environmental Defense Fund. Using the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines as their basis for action, they posed the research question “How can rights-based management secure the livelihoods and rights of women, and help to support gender equity in coastal fishing communities?” In their presentation (Abstract below),  they first diagnosed the current situation of women’s engagement in fisheries (commercial, subsistence and post-harvest activities), women’s influence in decision-making., and their current fishing rights.  The work was done at 5 sites in 4 countries (Belize, Chile, Cuba and Mexico). Based on the diagnosis of the present situation, the study will be examining how better data and a sharp gender lens on the systems of rights based management and decision-making can help secure women’s rights and tenure in the fisheries. The study is still a work in progress.

Securing women’s rights and livelihoods” Authors: Jordan Williams; Alexis Rife; Sarah Smith, PhD, NAAFE Forum 2017: Designing rights-based management systems to achieve social objectives in fisheries.

Abstract: The UN Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Small-scale Fisheries, along with the Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests, recognize the role of secure tenure in ensuring the livelihoods, well-being, and basic human rights of small-scale fishing (SSF) communities. Rights-based management (RBM), which works to secure tenure rights, can therefore serve as a useful tool in upholding the rights of all SSF participants. Globally, women in SSF communities have increasingly been recognized for their contributions, not just as wives of fishermen, but as seafood processors, traders, retailers, and in some cases, fishers themselves. However, traditional societal rules and expectations have, in many cases, come to marginalize women, leaving them out of decision-making and limiting their access to resources. Recognizing and incorporating gender-specific roles and access needs can be built into the design process of RBM systems in order to secure women’s tenure rights and meet social goals around food security, livelihoods, and protection of economic security and social welfare. Designing gender-responsive management strategies requires localized knowledge about the contributions and concerns of women throughout the value chain; this project identifies the role that women play in several SSF communities where the EDF is working to establish sustainable fisheries management through secure tenure. Utilizing this robust information, we can develop gender-responsive RBM strategies that not only support the economic and biological viability of fisheries, but aim to meet common social goals within these communities and ensure equitable access to resources and representation, regardless of gender.

  1. Gordon HS. The economic theory of a common property resource: the fishery.
    Journal of Political Economy 1954;62:124–42.
  2. Scott A. The fishery: the objectives of sole ownership. Journal of Political
    Economy 1955;63:116–54.
  3. Allison, E.H., Ratner, B.D., Åsgård, B., Willmann, R., Pomeroy, R. and Kurien, J., 2012. Rights‐based fisheries governance: from fishing rights to human rights. Fish and Fisheries, 13(1), pp.14-29.

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