Building foundations for gender equity and women’s empowerment in seafood production

A team of researchers have developed eight national “fact sheets” that cover gender dynamics in seafood production for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

GRP Areas of work: Knowledge Policy Theme: Oceans and coastal zones

Story highlights

  • Understanding gender dimensions of seafood production is crucial for improved policymaking 
  • Country factsheets provide standardised information relevant for planning and development processes
  • Factsheets have been co-developed with a diversity of experts, and represent an expanding open-access repository of knowledge

Women are integral actors in coastal fisheries and seafood production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, women represent 40% of all those estimated to engaged in small-scale fisheries. Yet they remain under-represented in governance systems and face significant barriers to meaningful participation in management and decision-making.

Achieving an equitable, sustainable and just future for seafood production depends on planning and policies that strive to strengthen gender equity. Understanding the present context, recent history and trajectories of gender and fisheries in different countries is crucial for improved policymaking. 

In 2021, Colette C.C. Wabnitz of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries led a report on the “Gender dimensions of ocean risk and resilience in SIDS and coastal LDCs.” This has provided a foundation of knowledge on how gender dimensions intersect with aspects of seafood production. 

Building on this work, supported by the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA), Colette Wabnitz, Sarah Harper of the University of Victoria and the Wildlife Conservation Society and a team of researchers have launched an ambitious effort to systematically provide national “fact sheets.” These fact sheets have been developed with inputs from a wide diversity of collaborators. Each fact sheet focuses on gender dimensions of seafood production, including enabling policies, current gender disparities, the primary areas in which women contribute to seafood production in domestic settings, and a multitude of other key facts relevant for policymaking. 

“Women make critical contributions across fisheries value chains, yet their role in the sector is often minimized. We hope these fact sheets, whose development benefited from the remarkable and incredibly rich contributions of a diverse team of collaborators, can help inform opportunities to strengthen gender equity and women’s empowerment in the sector and beyond,” says Colette Wabnitz. 

Fact sheets for eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa have been published. The countries include Cabo Verde, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and The United Republic of Tanzania. 

These fact sheets were financially supported by the United Kingdom’s Blue Planet Fund. With continued support from ORRAA, the number of fact sheets is expected to grow. During the next two years, this project will collect data and produce fact sheets from countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.

“By supporting this work, ORRAA has enabled the creation of a whole new body of information that will generate better outcomes for women and girls, for communities and for the world,” says Albert Norström, one of the project leads, Head of Knowledge and Evidence at GRP, and a researcher at SRC.

ORRAA Executive Director, Karen Sack, adds, “Women play an incredibly valuable role in the coastal fisheries value-chain, yet it is seldom acknowledged by policy-makers. Recognising and accounting for this value is critical if we are to make the right investments that support sustainable and resilient coastal communities. These fact sheets provide the critical knowledge and local context to do just that.”

To access the factsheets and other knowledge products developed by the collaboration between the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Global Resilience Partnership, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and Gulf of Maine Research Institute, visit the Ocean Risk Reports website

The featured image shows Jazza, a seaweed farmer in Zanzibar. She has been working as seaweed farmer for more than ten years. Photograph by Natalija Gormalova on Climate Visuals.