Category Archives: Gendered labor studies

Good Practices to Eliminate Fish Supply Chain Inequality

Women in fish processing plant. Photo: FAO

Women in fish processing plant. Photo: FAO

This FAO publication is a  very welcome addition to the material on the problems and solutions to gender inequality all along fish supply chains.  Good practice policies to eliminate gender inequalities in fish value chains, by Jennie Dey de Pryck analyses the facts, as they are known and provides guidance to action to address the inequalities across the sector, in small scale fisheries and aquaculture and in industrial fisheries. The publication also illustrates, with good examples and cases, the points and practices being proposed.

Download the publication here:  Good practice policies to eliminate gender inequalities in fish value chains

From  the Foreword:

The purpose of this paper is to highlight some key gender inequalities in fisheries and aquaculture value chains that lead to marked underperformance by women and to propose some good practice policies that can lead to sustainable increases in production, processing and marketing of high-quality fish, increase women’s and their families’ incomes, and reduce malnutrition among the poor. The paper … aims to build a solid business case to convince policy-makers and other stakeholders of the benefits of exploiting the hidden economic and social potential of fisheries and aquaculture. The focus is on developing countries where the majority of fish workers live, although some of the issues are similar in industrialized countries. The main audience is government policy-makers and officials, researchers, and their various development partners involved in the fisheries sector, with a particular focus on producers’, workers’, employers’ and other stakeholder organizations, including community-based organizations, operating in the formal or informal fisheries and aquaculture sector. Concerted, coordinated efforts are clearly essential among all these stakeholders to address the issues and realize women’s lost potential in fisheries.






New Drying Racks Improve Burundi Fish Profits but Reduce Women’s Participation

Men and women fish driers, Burundi. Source: FAO

Men and women fish driers, Burundi. Source: FAO

Change is often gendered as revealed in a recent FAO post harvest fisheries report. FAO introduced simple but highly effective fish drying racks to local processors in Burundi in a project in 2004 and local people have continued to develop and use the new effective technology. An FAO short report  “Simple fish-drying racks improve livelihoods and nutrition in Burundi” tells the story of the technology, its effectiveness (drying time has gone from 3 days to 8 hours), losses from insects and spoilage are down and it needs less labour. The community has gained food without extra pressure on the fish stocks, but the gender outcome is not positive for women who previously did almost all of the drying just on the ground. With the new, better and more profitable technology, women have been reduced from 80% to 60-70% of the business, and the men who are taking over own bigger businesses. competition for the raw material is increasing. FAO notes the extra efforts needed to ensure that women maintain their competitiveness in the fish drying businesses.

The short report on the drying racks and their impact can be downloaded here:

For pictures of similar racks, visit this link:

Fishing for Peace, Burundi. FAO Emergencies – Photos 

GAF4 Spotlight was on Gender and Change

The full report, program and all slide presentations from the 4th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries are NOW ONLINE!

Fishery changes shift working spaces, create and destroy jobs and bring overlaps in women’s and men’s roles. 

At the end of GAF4, student volunteers and Piyashi DebRoy (winner of GAF4 AquaFish CRSP Best Student Paper award congratulate all GAF4 participatns.

Congratulations to GAF4 participants from our student volunteers from Chonnam National University, Moon Eun-Ji (left) and Bak So-Hyeon (right), and Piyashi DebRoy (center and winner of GAF4 AquaFish CRSP Best Student Paper award) .

“Gender and fisheries studies, therefore, are increasingly addressing these changes and how women and men were affected by them,” said Dr Nikita Gopal who led the Program Committee that organized this highly energetic and successful event.  GAF4 also continued to fill out the global picture showing that women and gender issues are still not properly understood in the fisheries sector.”

Feedback declared GAF4 the most successful and highest quality of the 6 women in fisheries/gender in aquaculture and fisheries events held by the Asian Fisheries Society over the last 15 years.

On you will find:

Not as Famous as their Bollywood Sisters: Women in Fish Marketing in Maharashtra State

Maharashtra State in India is famous for many things, especially as the home of Bollywood movies with its famous female and male stars. Now, two new studies on women fish vendors in Maharashtra shine small but important spotlights on the women fish vendors of its diverse fish markets. They may not be as famous as their sisters, the Bollywood stars, but they are more interesting to fisheries followers!

One report, published by ICSF, is on women fish vendors in 2 fish markets in Mumbai (“Women Fish Vendors in Mumbai: A Study Report”, by Shuddhawati Peke), and the second is a background study of 3 fish markets by V.P. Vipinkumar and co-authors (“Success case studies of women mobilisation in marine fisheries sector of Maharashtra”).

Mumbai women fish vendors. Source: ICSF

Mumbai women fish vendors. Source: ICSF

Both reports contain valuable information and can be downloaded for free.

1. Women Fish Vendors in Mumbai: A Study Report

This study explores the trading environment for women in 9 formal and 3 informal fish markets. It explains the Koli ethnic background of most of the fish traders and their fishing villages that have become prime targets for land development in Mumbai’s rapid development. Although sharing many challenges and problems, the formal and informal traders also see each other as competitors and this, and other matters make collective action difficult at any scale. The study explores these complexities with thoroughness, resisting any urge to sugar-coat the issues and opportunities. Read it and learn!

Extracts from the Conclusion:

“…, it is clear that in metros like Mumbai, women vendors, whether formal or informal, are getting affected by development forces. The vendors are caught between private developers, who are looking to develop the markets that are located in prime real estate, and the government authorities who control the markets. Fisherwomen may be the largest women labour force engaged for generations in one business, namely, fish marketing; yet, they are on the verge of extinction due to their inability to regroup and restructure themselves and due to the negligence of the fisheries sector organizations in protecting their interests.

“Small organizations that began with the aim of aiding women vendors were destroyed by in-house corruption or have become divisive over political and economic agendas. The changing face of Mumbai city has impacted the fisherfolk’s way of life; pollution and infrastructure projects on the coast have decimated nearshore fi sheries. The livelihoods of women vendors and processors have been affected by reduced access to resources such as space and clean water. In addition, unemployment among the menfolk in the family has increased the burden on the women. Workplace pressures in the form of sub-optimal working conditions have also added to the health woes of the women vendors.”

Download here

Women in Naigaon Night Fish Market. Source: CMFRI

Women in Naigaon Night Fish Market. Source: CMFRI

2. Success case studies of women mobilisation in marine fisheries sector of Maharashtra by Vipinkumar VP,, Shyam S Salim, Deshmukh VD, Raje SG and Paramita B Sawant (of CMFRI and CIFE)

This study had the aim of finding contextual detail to help create positive interventions to help the women traders in Maharashtra, especially through the Self Help Group movement. It covered 3 markets: the Marol Dry Fish Market, the Naigaon Night Fish Market and the women’s Self Help Groups in the Alibag District. It was essential designed as a needs analysis study for designing help programs.

Abstract: “A study was undertaken in the selected locations in the coastal belts of Maharashtra state with a major objective of assessing the demographic characteristics and drawing specific cases of women in marine fisheries sector. The study was carried out in three coastal districts such as Greater Mumbai, Thane and Alibag. Success Case studies of women mobilization were explored from the locations in the above districts such as ‘Marol Dry fish market’ in Greater Mumbai district, ‘Naigaon Night fish market’ in Thane district in and Milkatgar & Navgav locations of Alibag district in Maharashtra. Data collection on demographic characteristics was undertaken with trained enumerators and elucidation of specific success case studies of women in fisheries sector was undertaken on Marol Dry fish market in Versoa of Greater Mumbai district, Naigaon Night fish market in Thane district and Milkatgar & Navgav Women Self Help Groups of Alibag district of Maharashtra state. These strategy developed in these case studies can be used as a practical manual for mobilizing and managing women’s Self Help Groups in any key areas on a sustainable basis. These can be used as case model for promoting group action and group empowerment and for mobilizing women based enterprises in other key areas like Agriculture, Forestry, Floriculture, Agro-based industries, Watershed development etc.”

Download here

Women in the EU Fish Processing Economy

Fish processor, Poland. Source:

Fish processor, Poland. Source:

In 2012, the European Union (EU) Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), through the Joint Research Centre of the EU, published a report on the Economic Performance of the EU Fish Processing Industry Sector (STECF-OWP-12-01). 

In aggregate from the reporting countries, the 2011 employment statistics show that women and men are almost evenly balanced, in terms of numbers of jobs. Looking at different countries, however, the figures differ. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have more than 60% women fish processing employees, whereas Malta and the UK have more than 60% of men employees. In Europe, fish processing about 150,000 people. France, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom supported the largest workforces, with more than 10,000 each.

Percent women (blue) and men (red) in each reporting EU country. Source. STECF report

Percent women (blue bar) and men (red bar) by EU reporting country. Source. STECF report)

This report (link for download) should be read in conjunction with the STECF report on employment and other economic parameters in the aquaculture sector (see: /counting-womens-participation-in-eu-aquaculture/). The EU is taking measures to improve its fisheries economic statistics, including gender-disaggregated data. To date, however, no gender-disaggregated data are available from capture fisheries.

New IFPRI release: data needs for gender analysis in agriculture

Good gender-sensitive research starts with good data. IFPRI has just released a discussion paper to the 2011 FAO “State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011: Women and Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development“.

The Discussion Paper provides “guidelines on how to collect better gendered data through surveys. It details who should be interviewed; how the interview should be structured; and what kinds of questions should be asked, both at the individual level and also more broadly at the household, community or regional levels.”

Download Discussion Paper here

Women as agents of wellbeing in Northern Ireland’s fishing households

Herring processing, Ardgladd, Ireland 1920s. Source:

Herring processing, Ardgladd, Ireland 1920s. Source:

Gendered change in fisheries is starting to emerge as a significant field of research. This new research paper from Easkey Britton, published in Maritime Studies, finds that, over the last century – from the days of the independent “herring lassies” to the days of  fisheries decline and factory closures –  women have become less and less visible, but more and more important to family well-being, often at the expense of subjugating their own needs. The paper is called “Women as agents of wellbeing in Northern Ireland’s Fishing households.”

This paper focuses on the gender dimensions of wellbeing in fishing households in Northern Ireland. The impact of change in the fishing industry on women’s wellbeing is outlined and linkages are made between changing access to fish and changing roles of women in fishing households. The paper explores what this change means for how women perceive and pursue their wellbeing needs and aspirations and how they negotiate their needs with the needs of the household. In an occupation as gender biased as fishing it is argued that in order for fisheries management and policy to be successful, a profile of what really matters to people is important. In particular, the paper highlights how such priorities link to the complex and dynamic role of women in fishing households.

The paper is open access and can be downloaded here

Also check out our earlier story on northern UK women in fisheries, covering a previous paper by Easkey and one by Minghua Zhao and colleagues.

What does space in a fish trading house mean to the fish traders?

Women fish traders examine fish before the auction. Photo: N. Turgo

Women fish traders examine fish before the auction. Photo: N. Turgo

Nelson Turgo’s paper, “Bugabug ang dagat” (Rough seas): Experiencing Foucault’s heterotopia in fish trading houses, in Social Science Diliman, provides intriguing analysis of how women and men fish traders use and view their daily spaces in fish trading houses of Mauban, Quezon province, Philippines.


Places in the contemporary world are subjected to the workings of differentiating logics, foremost of which is globalization and to the other end, the counter-logic of  localization, which results in, amongst others, the instantiation of differing spaces. These spaces, oftentimes co-existing and overlapping, are a result of contrapuntal forces, enacting their own colonization of places by people of varying interests. This article explores the other uses of kumisyunan (fish trading houses) by magririgaton (fish vendors) from a small fishing community in Quezon province that “simultaneously represent, contest, and invert” the very purpose and nature of the places’ rationale: fish trading. Heterotopia will be deployed in this article to further the ends of how a particular place could be inhabited by a number of spaces or exhibit alternate spatial possibilities and display a plethora of spatial practices within one singular location at different times in a particular spatial and temporal context. The article hopes to contribute to the further understanding of how everyday life and place is lived and reproduced in the variegated geographies of globalization in a developing economy like the Philippines.

Download the paper here

In GAF2, 2007 Kochi, Dr C. Ramachandran and colleagues presented on: “Gendered spaces, Technological Change and Fisheries Sustainability: A comparative analysis of women in Tuna Fisheries in Lakshadeep and Bivalve Fisheries in Kerala”.  This is another fascinating investigation of the use of space by women and men in a fisheries setting. Downlaod the PPT here.

See also Dr Turgo’s earlier paper and storyInsider’s Rapport? Take a Visit to a Philippine Coastal Community with Dr Nelson Turgo, Social Scientist

Also see Dr Turgo’s Ph D thesis:

Women hold up 47% of the (fisheries) sky

Beach landings, Senegal. Photo: K. Kelleher (World Bank)

To highlight the importance of small scale capture fisheries contributions to employment, livelihood and the economy, the World Bank recently released its study on “Hidden Harvest: The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries”. FAO and WorldFish Center also collaborated on the study.

Download the report here

Although cautious in its conclusions owing to the quality of data available, this is the first global attempt to come to grips with the numbers. For the first time for capture fisheries, women were also explicitly counted in all estimates, and the results are higher than previously reported at the global level. “Hidden Harvest” estimated that “47 percent of the total workforce is women, which in developing countries equates to 56 million jobs.” Further “The role of women in fisheries is not limited to processing and marketing; women are also investors, sources of credit, managers of household fishing receipts, and consumers who make important decisions on family nutrition.” In the 2010-11 FAO State of Food and Agriculture Report, highlighting the gender gap in agricultural productivity (, FAO estimated that about 30 percent of primary and secondary employment in fisheries and aquaculture sector.


  • Approximately 120 million full-time and part-time workers are directly dependent on commercial capture fisheries value chains for their livelihoods.
  • Ninety-seven percent (116 million) of these people live in developing countries. Among them,
    • more than 90 percent (including almost 32 million fishers) work in the small-scale fisheries subsector,
    • 47 percent of the total workforce is women, which in developing countries equates to 56 million jobs,
    • over half (60 million) of those employed in fisheries value chains in developing countries work in small-scale inland fisheries, and
    • 73 percent (approximately 23 million) of developing country fishers and fish workers live in Asia.
    • Over half of the catch in developing countries is produced by the small-scale subsector, and 90 to 95 percent of the small-scale landings are destined for local human consumption.
    • Commercial capture fisheries, including postharvest activities, are conservatively estimated to have contributed $274 billion to the global GDP in 2007. This is slightly less than 1 percent of the total global GDP.
    • The pre-harvest value chain (including such activities as boatbuilding and equipment manufacture and sale) may add a further $160 billion to the GDP estimate.
    • Global estimated expenditures by approximately 220 million recreational fishers are about $190 billion annually.
    • Recreational fisheries can be of greater economic importance than commercial fisheries in some countries, and they contribute about $70 billion to global GDP.
    • An estimated 5.8 million fishers in the world earn less than $1 per day.
    • Fish is a vital source of nutrition and feeds more than 1 billion consumers to whom fish is a key component of their diets.
    • Subsistence fisheries are a large economic activity and livelihood component of rural communities, but the numbers of subsistence fishers at the global level and the importance of fish to such households are poorly quantified.
    • The role of women in fisheries is not limited to processing and marketing; women are also investors, sources of credit, managers of household fishing receipts, and consumers who make important decisions on family nutrition.
    • Small-scale fishing communities are among the poorest and most afflicted with social ills and may be further marginalized by a failure to recognize the importance of fisheries.
    • Large-scale fisheries land more fish, but small-scale fisheries produce more fish for domestic human consumption.
    • National reported capture fisheries production statistics seem to underestimate overall commercial catches by about 10 percent and small-scale inland captures by as much as 70 percent.
    • Employment in small-scale fisheries is several times higher per ton of harvest than in large-scale fisheries.
    • Small-scale fisheries generate less waste in the form of discards (unwanted catch dumped at sea).
    • Like other primary production sectors, fisheries tend to be more important in developing economies than in developed economies.

Seaweed Farming: Three Countries, Three Different Experiences

Women collecting seaweed, Zanzibar. Photo: Sara Frocklin

Seaweed farming has grown at much the same rapid rate as other forms of aquaculture in the last twenty years, but seaweeds are produced in far fewer countries than, for example, farmed fish. The Philippines and Tanzania are among the top 8 countries. India is not yet on the list but, on the Coromandel (southeast) Indian coast, the industry commenced in the early 2000s as a platform for women’s empowerment.

Comparative studies on the social and gender dimensions of seaweed farming in Zanzibar (Tanzania), India and Philippines are not available but the three studies below provide insights into different aspects of seaweed farming. Sara Frocklin and colleagues focus on women’s health in the industry in Zanzibar. Ramchandran analyses the property rights and support for women and men from a gender perspective in seaweed and other forms of mariculture in India, finding that women are tending to lose access when an industry’s profitability is proven. Della Grace Bacaltos and colleagues describe community group building efforts and gender roles for small-scale farmers in the Philippines in the Davao.

 1. Zanzibar: seaweed farming challenges and benefits

Read the  interview with Maricella de la Torre-Castro here

The research paper is in the journal Aquaculture

Fröcklin, S., M. de la Torre-Castro, L. Lindström, N.S. Jiddawi, and F. E. Msuya. 2012. Seaweed mariculture as a development project in Zanzibar, East Africa: A price too high to pay?  Aquaculture 356—357:30—39

Abstract: Seaweed mariculture has been promoted as a development project in tropical countries and Zanzibar, Tanzania, is commonly presented as a successful story. However, the results of the present research provide a nuanced picture of the activity identifying serious health problems among farmers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with female seaweed farmers (n=140) and non-seaweed farmers (n=140) in Zanzibar to evaluate health and working conditions. In-depth interviews with additional 28 female seaweed farmers were performed to deepen the understanding of the working conditions and related problems. The research was undertaken at seven different locations to cover areas where seaweed is extensively executed during August to September 2009 and May to June 2010. Seaweed farmers considered their health significantly poorer than non-seaweed farmers with fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, hunger, respiratory problems, eye related problems, injuries from hazardous animals and sharp shells in the water and allergies as the most serious issues (pb0.05). Income was further reported below the extreme poverty line. Since seaweed farming affects thousands of households in the tropics these results should encourage changes towards better working conditions and sustainability.

2. India: “A Sea of One’s Own!” A Perspective on Gendered Political Ecology in Indian Mariculture

Man collecting seaweed, Gulf of Mannar, India. Photo: CMFRI Special Publication 104, Socioeconomic dimensions of Seaweed Farming in India, by M Krishnan and R Narayanakuma(2010).

by Ramachandran, C.  In: Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Moving the Agenda Forward. Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue Vol.25S (2012):17 -28

Download paper here

 Abstract: In India, mariculture is a sunrise enterprise. Technologies that have attracted the imagination of coastal stakeholders include mussel farming, seaweed farming and open sea cage culture. Mussel (Perna viridis) farming technology has diffused along the Malabar coast (southwest India), and seaweed (Kappaphycus alverezii) farming prevails along the Coromandel coast (southeast India), after it found a niche in the Gulf of Mannar. Having proven their potential as empowerment platforms for coastal women, the theatres where these technologies were adopted raised a number of issues in the realm of a gendered political ecology. The aim of this paper is not only to diagnose these issues but juxtapose them with some of the epistemological concerns being brought by “gender lens” scholarship, especially in the neo-liberal context of global fisheries. A paradox brought out by the present study is the ambivalence of the State in manifesting itself as a positive “bargaining” force in the intra-household domestic space (by providing State-sponsored platforms through the Self Help Groups) while leaving the “common access resource” space, from which these platforms gain sustenance, less amenable to its democratic ideals.

Men tending seaweed lines, Davao Del Sur, Philippines. Photo: Della Grace Bacaltos

3. Gender Roles in the Seaweed Industry Cluster of Southern Philippines: The DICCEP Experience

By Della Grace Bacaltos, Nilla Nanette Revilla, Romeo Castañaga, Marilou Laguting, Gilbert Anguay, Domingo Ang, Grace Caballero, Arlyn Omboy, Kristeel Mae Efondo, and Gracelyn Flamiano-Garde. In:  Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Moving the Agenda Forward. Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue Vol.25S (2012):251-256

Download paper here

Abstract: Recognising the long value chain of seaweed production, a seaweed industry cluster was developed to enhance seaweed production in Davao, southern Philippines. The seaweed industry cluster was an inter-agency, multi-sectoral initiative to develop a road map for the seaweed industry and its stakeholders in Davao Region. This was designed to increase the income of fisherfolk, improve the regional contribution of the industry and to sustain productivity and competitiveness. Based on the industry cluster approach, a capability building project was implemented through the Davao Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (DICCEP). After training on the industry cluster approach, three pilot projects were implemented. DICCEP: (1) established seaweed farms for the benefit of farmers, (2) created a directory of seaweed farmers and traders, and (3) developed a database on seaweed production. It also trained 95 farmers and housewives on seaweed value adding and entrepreneurship. The project helped farmers to generate income, and processors to develop new value-added seaweed products. Throughout, DICCEP was sensitive to the gender breakdown among participants in the Cluster. Although men took the main leadership roles, women were active in production and, particularly, post-harvest processing. Men were also active in post-harvest processing and their skills should not be overlooked.