Exploring Gender Inclusion in Small-Scale Fisheries Management and Development in Melanesia

Sangeeta Mangubhai
Sarah Lawless

Fisheries, like other sectors, is not immune to gender inequality, and women tend to experience the brunt of inequality as undervalued and underrepresented actors in fisheries management and development. A comprehensive understanding of the gender approaches in use, including potential barriers to their implementation, is needed to promote gender equitable outcomes in the small-scale fisheries (SSF) sector. We conducted interviews with fisheries managers and practitioners working in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu between 2018 and 2019. We found gender inclusive approaches were broadly applied in three ways: (a) through community-based projects and programs (e.g., inclusive participation techniques); (b) national level research and policy; and (c) internal organizational operations (e.g. gender-sensitive recruitment policies). Although fisheries organizations approached gender inclusion in diverse ways, when critically evaluated according to gender best practice we found 76.2% of approaches were designed to ‘reach’ women, and very few ‘benefited’, ‘empowered’, or ‘transformed’ women’s lives. ‘Gender’ was conflated to ‘women’ indicating a poor understanding of what gender inclusion means in practice. We found gender inclusive approaches were limited by the knowledge and capacities of fisheries managers and practitioners, and inhibitive institutional cultures. We argue that SSF organizations need to build explicit institutional gender commitment, strategies and systematic efforts to implement gender approaches with effective accountability mechanisms in place. While the fisheries sector is in its infancy, the plethora and diversity of development organizations in the Pacific provides a unique opportunity to build strategic partnerships to improve gender inclusion in practice in SSF management and development. Such a step can assist the transition from gender inclusive approaches being ‘new’ to the ‘norm’ whilst setting a benchmark for what is acceptable practice.

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Journal Article
Submitted by Toksave
March 23, 2021
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