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A "feminist perspective" in fisheries builds on the fact that women of fishing communities take on multidimensional roles that straddle both production and reproduction...


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Issue No:54
  • :May
  • :2017
  • :English

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replaced the Millennium Development Goals, set new targets for sustainable development by the year 2030. Among the SDGs, SDG 14, which specifically calls for the sustainable use of marine resources, is the focus of the upcoming United Nations Ocean Conference, scheduled to take place in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017. This conference is extremely relevant for the fisheries sector, given the large number of powerful stakeholders currently seeking control over marine and fisheries resources. In the context, it is important to emphasise that there are several factors that are crucial in determining the sustainable development of these resources. A major factor is the role of women in fisheries.

Studies of small-scale fisheries across the globe show how women contribute to the sustainability of the fisheries sector. They also show that where women have greater agency, they contribute to improving value addition and productivity in the sector. In the context, SDG 5 that emphasizes gender equality and empowerment of women and children is very important, not only for equity and for the rights of women, but also from the perspective of sustainable economic growth in small-scale fisheries.


Changing tides

Labour shortage has improved work conditions for women in seafood processing in Kerala, India, although gender equality in employment is still a distant dream

By Nikita Gopal (nikiajith@gmail.com), Principal Scientist, ICAR-Central institute of Fisheries Technology, Cochin, India

Seafood processing factories all over the world are dependent on women’s labour. India is no exception. The work in the factories is generally monotonous and full of drudgery. The work environment is not very comfortable, as the workplace temperature and conditions are geared to maintain the quality of the product. Almost all the women are engaged on a contractual basis, with the piece rated daily wages regulated by the number of ‘baskets’ they process. Men are more likely than are women, to have permanent jobs and higher wages in these factories.

The labour force in the initial decades of growth of the seafood processing sector in India largely came from the southern state of Kerala. This was the situation even as late as until the late 1990s and early 2000s. The women were recruited by labour contractors, and taken to work in fa