Empower Ocean Women

Women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated in
low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and
labor rights protections. Pictured here are Rita Francke and
another fisherwoman at a jetty, in front of the old crayfish
factory at Witsands, South Africa. Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Our oceans play a major role in everyday life, but they are in
grave danger. To protect the ocean, we must look to a crucial,
largely overlooked component: gender.

For World Oceans
this year, which occurs every year on Jun. 8, the United
Nations and the international community is shining a spotlight on
the intersections between the ocean and gender—an often
underrepresented and unrecognised relationship.

“Gender equality and the health and conservation of our oceans
are inextricably linked and we need to mainstream gender equality
both in policies and programs and really in our DNA,” UN
Women’s Policy Analyst Carla Kraft told IPS.

Founder of Women4Oceans Farah
Obaidullah echoed similar sentiments to IPS to mark the occasion,
stating: “It’s a great step that the UN is recognising the
importance of addressing gender when it comes to achieving healthy
oceans. You can’t achieve healthy oceans without achieving gender

Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120
million people, working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering
men both in large-scale and small-scale fisheries.

However, women in the fisheries sector are largely concentrated
in low-skilled, low-paid seasonal jobs without health, safety, and
labour rights protections. In fact, women earn approximately 64
percent of men’s wages for the same work in aquaculture.

At the same time, women’s contributions both towards
ocean-based livelihoods and conservation efforts remain

“There’s a disproportion valuation or recognition of
women’s work and skills in marine and coastal development and
ocean and marine resources,” Kraft said.

“Women’s economic empowerment is very much related to ocean
activities and resources so it’s really about having gender
equality as both a goal and a process through which we can
conserve, preserve, and use the ocean in economic activity,” she

As ocean degradation and climate change deepens, women are left
with even less access to economic resources, protection, and stable
livelihoods, which thus exacerbates gender inequalities.

According to UN Women, women and children are 14 times more
likely to die or get injured in natural disasters due to unequal
access to resources.

While women’s political participation is increasing,
Obaidullah noted that women are still left out of the table in
decision-making and lack recognition around fisheries and ocean
governance, telling IPS of her own experiences as an ocean

“It’s difficult—sometimes it’s because I’m a woman,
sometimes it’s because of my ethnic background—to have my voice
heard in certain settings. I’ll go to a conference and try to
talk about serious topics with fellow delegates but [only to] be
put down,” Obaidullah told IPS.

“I have seen how women have left the conservation movement and
academia because of being in the minority in the fields that they
work. And that has to change because we are losing out on all this
capacity, intelligence, and training because of the inequality in
this sector,” she added.

For instance, UN Women found that in Thailand men make 41
percent of decisions compared to 28 percent by women regarding fish
farming. Such decisions are often related to establishing farms,
business registration, feeding, and dealing with emergencies.

Obaidullah highlighted the need to empower  and support women
across the globe to ensure sustainable ocean governance, including
at the UN.

“Bringing in different voices from different backgrounds and
from different genders is essential if we are going to set a
healthier course for humanity…. we need to be making role models
across geographies, across cultures if we are to get people
motivated and inspired to take action for the ocean,” she

“There are a lot of women and people from different cultures
and countries that are really on the ground fighting the fight for
our ocean but they don’t get the spotlight.”

Women make up approximately 47 percent of the world’s 120
million people working in fisheries around the world, outnumbering
men both in large-scale fisheries and small-scale fisheries.
Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS

Already, the work towards inclusive conservation has begun.

In Seychelles, numerous organisations have put women and youth
at the centre of efforts. One such organisation is SOCOMEP, a woman-run fisheries
quality and quantity control company.

In Kenya, women are promoting conservation education within the
mangrove forests through the Mikoko
Pamoja mangrove conservation and restoration project
, helping
contribute to ecotourism, better health care and education while
generating an income.

Kraft pointed to the need for data as the intersections between
gender and the ocean still remain unexplored.

“One of the biggest issues right now that we have is the lack
of sex-disaggregated data so it makes it harder to make really
adequate policy responses when we don’t know the exact status of
where women are in the economic activities in ocean and
marine-related fields,” she said.

At the end of the day, the international community must also
recognise that gender is related to and should be mainstreamed
through all sectors.

“We have gone too long without having a gender lens really
used for all of these policymakers…gender equality will benefit
sustainable ocean governance and sustainable ocean governance with
a gender lens will contribute to gender equality and women’s
economic empowerment,” Kraft said.

The post Empower Ocean
appeared first on Inter
Press Service

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Empower Ocean Women