Women overburdened but neglected workers in fishing communities – CHR

Published March 27, 2021, 3:25 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has lamented the “persistent invisibility and non-recognition” of the important role of women in the fishing industry, particularly in their fishing communities.

Photo by Susmita Saha on Unsplash.

Due to the “non recognition” of their important role, women in fishing communities could not avail themselves of government support particularly at this time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the CHR said.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit, Focal Commissioner for Women’s and Gender Rights, said women fisherfolk are neglected because fishing is often associated with just the capture of fish, and not the cleaning and selling involved in the trade.

“There is also very limited if not total absence of participation of women fisherfolks in fisherfolk organizations, often as substitutes of husbands and not part of the decision-making process,” Dumpit said.

She pointed out that even if there are programs for women fisherfolks through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), a substantial number of them still have very limited knowledge of their rights and of the programs.

“There is confusion as to what programs they can access and avail of, and of how they can access benefits independent of their husbands,” she stressed.

The non-recognition of women in fishing was revealed when the CHR conducted in its 16 regional offices focus group discussions (FGDs) with women fisherfolks, which started in 2019 and continued throughout the COVID0-19 pandemic in 2020.

Dumpit said the discussions unearthed that women fisherfolk are overburdened because of unfair division of labor.

But, she said, the FGDs came at an opportune time as the Senate proposed a measure to support fisherfolks during the pandemic.

She cited Senate Bill No. 2100  which seeks “to provide direct cash assistance to small-scale farmers and municipal fisherfolk whose livelihoods have been most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She expressed hopes that the FGDs findings will help support the immediate passage of the Senate bill.

“The recommendations that were gathered emphasized the need to ensure equal participation of women fisherfolks in fisherfolk organization and to have a separate women’s organization in fisherfolk communities,” she said.

“To address the acute insecurity brought by the pandemic, there is a need to strengthen women-specific programs and enhance support to women fisherfolks like financial aid, livelihood including alternative livelihood, loans with minimal interest, fishing equipment,” she added.