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Abstract

Women’s contributions to rural fisheries in the Philippines are often overlooked and unrecognized. The “invisibility” of women is primarily a factor of prevailing traditional views on fishing as a male-occupied industry. Gaps in understanding the role of women in the sector may risk implementing interventions that poorly capture their needs as important players in the fisheries value chain. Developing holistic and integrated solutions becomes crucial as rural fishing communities are highly vulnerable to food and economic insecurity, aggravated by external crises and a rapidly changing climate. This study identifies and assesses the factors and motivations on the gender dynamics in the rural tuna fishing communities in the Lagonoy Gulf, Philippines. Focus-group discussions and key-informant interviews were conducted with 120 male and female respondents across six (6) of the 15 municipalities in the Lagonoy Gulf, tuna federation leaders, and female group savings association officers. Results of the study emphasize the traditional heteronormative structures that still influence household and community dynamics in Lagonoy Gulf. Women are active as ancillary workers, holding key responsibilities in marketing the harvest to local traders and markets and engaging in profit-saving activities. However, these roles are seen only as support and are not recognized to merit the participation of women in community decision-making. This perception also reflects disparities at the household level, where women are expected to assume household and childcare work. However, women recognize these functions as a source of empowerment, upholding their skill to handle multiple occupations to service their devotion to their family. They also highly regard their skill in financial custodianship, seeking means to address their family’s financial problems. Lack of opportunities for women equally bears unhealthy expectations for men to remain the breadwinner despite struggles to reap economic benefits. Both men and women in Lagonoy Gulf echo the aspiration for women to earn to help address family poverty. This study emphasizes the need for institutional support to ensure gender-based strategies in the communities, including opening pathways for women to secure decent work and increasing their participation in local fisheries governance.

Note on the Author

Astrid Ocampo holds a Master’s Degree in Environment and Natural Resources Management at the University of the Philippines. Her Public Sector Partnerships work in WWF-Philippines involves engaging external development assistance institutions, such as the European Union and USAID, to develop and fund the organization’s conservation and sustainability programs.

Joann Binondo has been with WWF-Philippines as the Tuna Fisheries Lead for more than 10 years. She has worked extensively with national government agencies, foreign partners in Europe, and the communities in the Lagonoy Gulf and Occidental Mindoro to promote sustainable tuna fisheries management.

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