The new small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy is strong on gender rights in fisheries. This week The Hook looks at the issue of women in fisheries.

The role of women in the fisheries industry cannot be underestimated. Women play different roles to support, uplift and protect the industry, communities and families. In fisheries, women are involved in mostly post -harvest activities.

They have always played a key role in the pre and post-harvest activities and in some areas women are the primary harvesters on intertidal resources (South African Small Scale Fisheries Policy, 2014).

For example, women are the only ones would be involved in reef gleaning, other activities will include harvesting of mussels, fish processors (smoking, salting,), selling and trading.

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Women’s fishing activities take place within the community. Women are workers in seafood processing plants, as caregivers of the family and in maintaining social networks and the culture of the community and as members of fishworker movements and fishers organisations (The International Collective in Support of Fish workers, 2015).

In a study of the Role of Women in Fisheries by MacAlister Elliott and Partners Ltd, 2002, the authors say that “… women feel unwelcome in the seagoing fishing sub sector, but have little interest in participating anyway. In aquaculture women feel discriminated against, but to a much lower extent. Processing is the one sub sector where women are over-represented, but mainly because they predominate in low-grade unskilled jobs…”

As the South African Fishing industry is entering the roll out and implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy, Masifundise notes the important role woman play in the industry.

The small-scale fisheries policy is a policy that is based on communal rights and the development of communities. One of the objectives of the policy is to make sure that men and women get equitable benefits from the sector.

The small-scale fisheries policy will ensure that women are:

  1. Empowered to exercise their rights to participate in the management of the marine resources;
  2. Trained to participate in the marketing, tourism, aquaculture, and additional coastal economic opportunities and
  3. Equally represented on institutional structures.

These are some of the benefits the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy will bring to women and all those who are involved in post harvesting and other activities like bait preparation, cleaning, processing and marketing.

But the real benefits which include small-scale fishers being legally recognised, food security and poverty reduction will only be realised as soon the policy is implemented.