Engaging women in aquaculture

Women work in all sections of the aquaculture value chain but their opportunities have not kept pace with its growth.

Today, the total production of aquatic animals and plants exceeds 100 million tonnes and strong growth continues. Indeed, many opportunities have contracted under the prevalent growth strategies. Women are more common in small-scale production, post-harvest industrial and artisanal processing, value addition, marketing and sales. Few women are senior staff, owners, managers and executives in the larger enterprises.

Aquaculture can empower women

Women’s opportunities in aquaculture have not kept pace with the rapid growth of the sector 

Engaging women in aquaculture may not improve household food security and nutrition unless attention is given also to the species grown, women’s empowerment and control over production, and their nutritional knowledge.

Sex-disaggregated statistics that could track women in aquaculture are scarce, and therefore women’s presence, influence and interests are invisible. Statistics collection should be mandated in all jurisdictions because gender-blindness limits women’s entrepreneurial opportunities and their protection at work.

Current aquaculture policy objectives and strategies are also gender blind. Certification, good practice accreditation, and all aquaculture labour practices should embrace the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) #5 (gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls), and #8 (decent work and economic growth). To reach the SDG targets, all aquaculture participants have responsibilities. Gender equality must be mainstreamed into aquaculture planning, development, monitoring and evaluation, requiring political action by sector leaders, advocates and gender champions, supported by new technical instruments for implementation.

Reliable sex-disaggregated statistics are missing for aquaculture, and most policies are gender-blind

The lack of comprehensive and timely data on women in aquaculture is one reason why women are invisible in aquaculture policy.

Reciprocally, gender inequality is reinforced and the social and economic progress of aquaculture is hampered by poor sex-disaggregated data and gender-blind aquaculture policies.

Such discrimination limits women’s protection at work and their entrepreneurial opportunities in this expanding sector.

Social issues, including decent work, are only just starting to gain attention in aquaculture initiatives such as certification and best practice programs.

Gender issues, however, lack strong advocates, despite some efforts by development agencies to promote women in (usually) small scale aquaculture. In comparison, women in small scale fisheries are slightly better recognized in policy than is the case in aquaculture because fisheries research has provided more evidence of women’s contributions, and non-government organisations (NGO) and gender equality is now included in influential internationally-recognised documents, such as the 2014 Voluntary Guidelines on Small Scale Fisheries (FAO 2015).

Read more of this article at Genderaquafish.org

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