Gleaner, Fisher, Trader, Processor: Understanding Gendered Employment in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector


Weeratunge, Nireka, and Katherine Snyder. 2009. “Gleaner, Fisher, Trader, Processor: Understanding Gendered Employment in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector.” Paper presented at the Workshop on Gaps, Trends and Current Research in Gender Dimensions of Agricultural and Rural Employment: Differentiated Pathways out of Poverty. Rome, March 31 - April 2.

Authors: Nireka Weeratunge, Katherine Snyder


Most research on gender difference or inequities in capture fisheries and aquaculture in Africa and the Asia-Pacific focuses on the gender division of labour. Emerging research on globalization, market changes, poverty and trends in gendered employment within this sector reveals the need to move beyond this narrow perspective. If gleaning and post-harvesting activities were enumerated, the fisheries and aquaculture sector might well turn out to be female sphere. A livelihoods approach better enables an understanding of how employment in this sector is embedded in other social, cultural, economic, political and ecological structures and processes that shape gender inequities and how these might be reduced. We focus on four thematic areas – markets and migration, capabilities and well-being, networks and identities, governance and rights – as analytical entry points. These also provide a framework to identify research gaps and generate a comparative understanding of the impact of development processes and socioecological changes, including issues of climate change, adaptation and resilience, on gendered employment. Without an adequate analysis of gender, fisheries management and development policies may have negative effects on people’s livelihoods, well-being and the environment they depend on, or fail altogether to achieve intended outcomes.



“The livelihoods approach is particularly important to understanding gendered agricultural employment as the distinction between productive and reproductive activities is often blurred in rural societies. Thus, many of the gender disparities in employment (productive tasks) are linked to ideological underpinnings of gender roles linked to reproductive tasks, such as household chores and child care…. Productive tasks are often prioritized by men, whereas women are required to juggle the two types of tasks, shaping the differential benefits that each group derives from wage employment.” (6)

“Gender issues in the fisheries / aquaculture sector are often overlooked or misunderstood because of an analytical focus that looks at the sector in isolation and is concerned primarily with ecological and economic factors… Thus interventions have more commonly been directed at fishers involved in the production process and the aquatic environment, rather than at women engaged in post-harvesting and marketing on-shore, or interconnections between the two sets of actors and processes.” (7)

“Our analytical approach would be to study gender, rather than women (as was often the case in the past), and analyze gender disparities in rural employment, irrespective of whether these negatively affect women or men. Even though many of the case studies highlight disadvantages faced by women, it is important to take cognizance of those studies which point to advantages for women, such as control of fishing assets and financial resources (in several West African countries) or higher levels of education among girls, relative to boys (in several Asian countries), factors which can translate into better opportunities in fisheries or non-fisheries employment in the future.” (18)

Topics: Development, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Environment, Gender, Governance, Livelihoods, Rights

Year: 2009

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