Promoting Gender Equity and Social Inclusion in Fisheries

When it comes to healthy ecosystems and productive fisheries, it is not the fish we have to manage, but people.

By Sangeeta Mangubhai | November 19, 2019

Women play a critical role in Fiji’s coastal fisheries. Photo credit: ©WCS Fiji.

When we talk about people, we are talking about both men and women who play different and complementary roles when it comes to biodiversity conservation and food security. At the same time communities are not homogenous and are made up of diverse social or ethnic groups.

It is critical to understand ‘intersectionality,’ where social categorizations such as ethnicity, class, and gender can overlap and can compound inequalities. Beyond a moral issue, inequalities can create obstacles that — if not understood and addressed — will ultimately make biodiversity and fisheries interventions ineffective.

And if we are not careful, the very interventions we use can reinforce or exacerbate inequalities. For example, if a marine protected area is placed where women glean, this can impact food security, as the women will need to travel further or work harder to feed their families.

There is growing interest in ensuring that the approaches we are using in fisheries and conservation incorporate gender equity and social inclusion to realize outcomes are fair, just and sustainable.

Let me give three examples to illustrate.

Firstly, women and men hold different specific biodiversity knowledge and use it in different ways. The collection of sex-disaggregated data can shed light on gender roles in biodiversity protection and fisheries management, and can help us design interventions that promote equity and inclusion.

Credit: Sangeeta Mangubhai/WCS

We need a better understanding of which approaches used to achieve joint conservation and fisheries objectives reinforce gender inequality and social exclusion. And we need to marry this with more positive examples of how to make gender equity and social inclusion work. For example, approaches that simply attempt to fill a gender quota do not result in transformative change, as they fail to tackle the underlying root causes of inequality.

Lastly, we need to create the space for different viewpoints and styles of problem solving, and to find impactful solutions. This may mean initially holding separate discussions with men and women — or different ethnic groups — to enable them to speak more freely before they are put together to make joint-decisions.

Moving forward, it is important that gender issues are on the FAO Committee on Fisheries agenda, and that the relevant parties discuss development of a strategy for mainstreaming gender equity and social inclusion in programs, statistics, policies, and international instruments.

We need to move beyond guidelines and lip service to provide practical tools to implement joint biodiversity protection and fisheries management objectives, using gender and social inclusive approaches that are unique to their social-cultural and geographic settings.

The bottom line is that we should not do gender and social inclusion only because we have to. Incorporating these concerns is instrumental to achieving both food security and conservation objectives. And morally, it is the right thing to do.

Sangeeta Mangubhai is Fiji Country Director for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Our Ocean, Our Future

Conserving and managing the marine biodiversity of our oceans is a monumental task that few countries have the capacity to do on their own. WCS is responding by investing in ocean protection, sustainable fisheries, and marine species conservation where the need is greatest

Wildlife Conservation Society

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WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

Our Ocean, Our Future

Conserving and managing the marine biodiversity of our oceans is a monumental task that few countries have the capacity to do on their own. WCS is responding by investing in ocean protection, sustainable fisheries, and marine species conservation where the need is greatest

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