* ICLARM is now known as WorldFish Center

Naga - The *ICLARM Quarterly
Vol. 22, No. 2 (April - June 1999)

The human dimension is well in the forefront of all of *ICLARM’s work. With the ultimate aim of improving the lives of the poor people, the research must focus on the impacts of human activities on fisheries and vice-versa. The question we constantly ask ourselves at *ICLARM is: how will our research and management advice affect the people who depend directly and indirectly on fisheries? And in looking for the answers it has become apparent that the role of women in this sector is important and needs attention. 

As in much of agriculture and the informal sector, the contribution of women in fisheries is unrecognized and undervalued. Not only do women contribute substantially to these activities, but the income they earn has a more significant impact on the nutrition and education levels of the family. Thus, the empowerment of poor women by raising their status, skills and opportunities to earn is a good approach to achieve a better life for the “present and future generations of poor people in the developing countries”.

Speakers at the International Symposium on Women in Asian Fisheries (p. 39) focused on the experiences of women workers in this sector in Asia. The underlying themes of all the papers were that: the contribution of women in the fisheries sector should be recognized more explicitly; in Southeast Asia, women in this sector spend  about 45% of their time on fishery activities, equal to the men; 5 to 7 persons derive job dependency from one person that produces fish or fish products; and that women in and around the fishery industry should be assisted to participate in local fishery, ancilliary and related enterprises. In short, there needs to be an explicit agenda to focus on the conditions and requirements of women in and around fisheries and to harness their potential to improve the lives of their families and the community around them. *ICLARM’s work, undertaken in collaboration with the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute and several NGOs, in promoting aquaculture in household ponds and unused waterbodies in Bangladesh has incidentally changed the lives of hundreds of poor women and their families, within the existing social fabric, even though women were not specifically targeted as beneficiaries. Much more can be achieved if developmental activities actually recognize this potential and keep women as an important part of their overall focus.

Perhaps a good start would be to replace the word ‘fishermen’ with ‘fishers’, for it is not always what a word means but what it implies that strongly influences people’s perceptions and actions!

Rita Kapadia
Editor, Naga, The *ICLARM Quaterly

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