Gender equity and the SSF Guidelines

The recent years have been marked by an increased recognition of the multiple roles and vital contributions of women in small-scale fisheries. For instance, the 2014 Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) is the first international document recognizing women contribution in fisheries and calling for gender equity and equality. The inclusion of gender in the SSF Guidelines was a monumental step, essential for three key reasons [4]:

  • It recognizes that, globally, women and men contribute to all aspects of the small-scale fisheries value chain, often in ecologically, economically, and culturally unique ways;
  • It is critical to understanding the centrality of gender to other crosscutting issues (e.g. human rights and well-being, food security, climate change);
  • It highlights the ways gender differences in power and decision making occur within the context of small-scale fisheries and how those differences influence representative, fair, and sustainable small-scale fisheries governance.

Gender equity and equality are included as one of the 13 guiding principles in the SSF Guidelines. Gender is also deliberated in the more detailed section on responsible fisheries and sustainable development. The SSF Guidelines recognize women’s participation all along the value chain, as well as the centrality of gender in other intersecting issues, for example, human rights, wellbeing, food security, and climate change. As signatory countries begin to implement the SSF Guidelines, gender equity and equality discourse offers an opportunity to insert gender issues in small-scale fisheries context.

Striving for gender equality means both letting women take place in all fora, and acknowledging the often invisible work and responsibilities women take on.

The SSF Guidelines call for equal participation of women and men in organizations and in decision-making processes in fisheries. Policies and legislation must support equality, and both women and men must have access to appropriate technologies and services to carry out their work.

The SSF Guidelines also encourage states to comply with relevant international human rights law and to develop monitoring and evaluation systems to assess the impact of legislation, policies and actions to address and mainstream gender issues.