Kelera Serelini-Varawa

Although women have contributed substantially to subsistence and commercial fisheries in Fiji, their role is still poorly acknowledged and recognised. This is partly because there has been little consistent data collected on women’s participation in fisheries and they have not been adequately engaged on fisheries management issues.

On 8 March 2017, the Women in Fisheries Network-Fiji, (WiFN-Fiji), Fiji Locally Marine Managed Area Network, (FLMMA), Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) co-hosted a National Women in Fisheries Forum to raise the profile and recognition of the role of women in Fiji’s subsistence and commercial fisheries, develop a deeper understanding of the diversity of projects and partners working on gender and fisheries in Fiji, and build a network of colleagues and practitioners work on gender and fisheries.

Held on International Women’s Day and opened by the Ministry of Fisheries, the Forum brought over 60 participants together including representatives from 14 provinces in Fiji. A series of talks were held in the morning covering topics such as the impact of cyclone Winston on women fishers, and specifically mud crab fishers, value chain analyses of mud crab and kai (mussel) fisheries, capacity building initiatives for women, communication with rural women and business development.

According to FLMMA Coordinator Margie Tabunakawai, women participants from the communities were not only involved in projects centered around yaubula but other components such as handicrafts, agricultures, managing women’s groups, etc..

“It was vitally important that at this first forum for Women in Fisheries, that we have the community women reps be present so that they have a space to talk, and pave the way for future forums. This Forum engaged women from the academia, private sector, government and most importantly the women in the community,” she added.

One of the major issues presented during the Forum was training and knowledge sharing to enable women to become more successful in selling seafood products as well as providing enough food for their family.

Aliti Vunisea, long-term champion and a member of the WiFN-Fiji, said not many young women and men took up studies in the fisheries field even though they participate at all levels of the fisheries supply chain in the country.

“They are suppliers, post-harvest processors, middle sellers, buyers and sellers operating in the domestic and export market with little training,” Ms Vunisea said.

She has seen many positive changes with Fijian women involved in the fisheries sector. There is a need to inform and strengthen traditional links and ties to empower and enhance women’s engagement in the fisheries sector. While we need to do more research on women in fisheries, it is important that information we have is passed on to the women who really need it to make informed decisions about their fisheries resources.