A webinar hosted by the University of Western Cape (UWC) conducted by Professor Monieba Isaacs addressed the challenges facing coastal women in the South African blue economy. A further challenge for these women was dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The webinar’s panel included two coastal women and two academics from The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).
Coastal communities are becoming increasingly poor and more vulnerable and women are often overlooked, ignored and excluded from the blue economy development agenda. The promises of jobs, capacity development and skills, and development funding all seem to elude coastal women as the focus is on large-scale aquaculture, adventure and elite tourism, energy, oil, gas and mining, and sustainability through Marine Protected Areas.
Rosie Sishola, a fishing rights activist from Lamberts Bay, highlighted her struggles as a coastal fisherwoman.
She emphasised that the limitations created by gender roles in the small-scale fishing sector often hindered women from benefitting from the funding opportunities distributed to coastal communities. Post-harvest activities that mainly include women are amongst those that continue to be overlooked by funding.
Tracy-Lee Dennis, a PLAAS PhD student and Ingrid Jones, Publisher and TV/Radio presenter, addressed the main challenges in programmes designed to enhance economic and entrepreneurial skills for coastal women in the Overberg and West Coast as part of the blue economy agenda.
Dennis explored the intergenerational differences amongst young and old women, as well as the importance of creating women only safe spaces to encourage free speech. Spaces in which marginalised women can speak freely without fear or exclusion.
Finally, the challenges brought on by COVID-19 highlighted the vulnerability of women but also, that women play a significant role in leadership in fishing communities.
Ingrid Jones introduced an alternative mechanism to improve the livelihoods of women fisherfolk through design thinking.
This mechanism encourages locals to grow their own indigenous projects or products harvested from their own areas, to attract more business from the community and tourists. This will allow women to use local resources to create products that they can sell and earn an income from.