Fisheries are one of the largest global employment sectors and in the Asia-Pacific region women make up half of workforce, performing key processing and selling work that enables seafood to reach local and international markets. Despite this, women’s vital roles and needs have traditionally been overlooked in an industry commonly considered to be male-dominated.
With the region’s fisheries under siege from overfishing combined with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a host of members from the local and global community—including international organizations, non-profits, and public and private sector actors—are working to leverage technology to conserve the region’s invaluable resources and improve the livelihoods of those working in the sector.
To successfully develop technology solutions that advance environmental, economic, and human objectives, it is important to address the needs and interests of both women and men using an approach that all players can be a part of. When the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) set out to develop technology solutions to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and conserve marine biodiversity in the region, the program held gender integration at the heart of its strategy and efforts.
Research undertaken by the program revealed that while the region’s fisheries workforce is driven by both sexes, women often face a number of limitations that prevent them from achieving their full potential. Cultural perceptions and beliefs, such as that women should not be aboard fishing vessels, limit their opportunities for employment. Their economic independence can also be affected by limited access to market information, financial resources, and mobility. For example, public transportation is commonly deemed as unsafe for women and with private transportation too costly women have reduced access to markets, while men can travel and sell to a range of markets far from port. As the managers of household and business finances, women are also often at the mercy of informal lending schemes with high interest rates, with formal loans often out of reach for fisher families. The program’s research uncovered a host of important gender differentials amongst its target users.
Although these findings are specific to fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region, gender differentials such as these exist in every sector and in every region of the globe. Acknowledging these individual needs not only makes technology more user-inclusive, but often advances the long-term success and impacts of the challenge at hand. In USAID Oceans case for example, the development of gender-inclusive seafood traceability tools can benefit both the prosperity of small-scale fisheries and the sustainability of long-term sustainable fisheries management. Traceability data and records provided from inclusive traceability tools, such as the USAID Oceans’ Trafiz application, can help small-scale suppliers and middle persons (both women and men) manage and grow their businesses by helping them meet national and international market demands as the credibility of their products is enhanced. In addition, both women and men can have greater—and equal—access to financial information, resources, and business opportunities that improve their livelihood and strengthen their agency for informed decision-making. Being gender inclusive in technology development as well as capacity building and training are crucial in providing a level playing field for women and men to equally participate in and access opportunities to advance their wellbeing.
Traceability technology designed with human aspects of fisheries in mind, such as technology that gathers sex-disaggregated data can provide valuable information on gender issues and labor concerns. Such data can inform national and regional policy development and program interventions, including in efforts to combat illegal fishing and achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
The USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) is a five-year, regional program working throughout the Asia-Pacific region to bridge the public and private sectors to develop fully transparent seafood traceability systems that combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, promote sustainable fisheries and conserve marine biodiversity. The program has partnered with a range of supply chain actors for fully traceable tuna products that bring benefits to actors in the region, as well as back to markets and consumers in the United States.