The ocean feeds billions of people and provides livelihoods for billions more - including, of course, women and girls.
Its potential for a continent on which almost two thirds of its states have a coastline, whose trade is 90 percent sea-borne and whose lakes constitute the largest proportion of surface freshwater in the world, is enormous. Indeed, its potential runs into the many trillions of dollars and promises to combine enormous economic growth with environmental conservation, if stewarded properly.

But one thing we can say with certainty now is that the full potential of the ocean can only be reached if it is truly inclusive, allowing all people in society to reap the dividends on offer from the ocean, seas, lakes and rivers of the continent.

Fishing and aquaculture are neither gender-blind nor gender-neutral. There is clear evidence that women and men in the fishing industry are treated and paid unequally. There is substantial segregation of work by gender, with men doing much of the offshore and high-value fishing, fish harvesting and aquaculture, while women are far more involved in less well-paid, or even unpaid, fish processing, harvesting of less valuable fish, sales and maintenance.

Women must be at the heart of this inclusivity, gender equality and women’s empowerment must be in the heart of all government policies and actions. The ocean is fertile ground to further women’s role in this transformative field.

Women are rarely given a seat on the local, regional, national or international bodies that deliberate on the oceans, laws and standards that affect them. Access to funding, training, education, technology, market information and the ability to start ventures are much less available to women than to men. This lack of gender diversity stifles innovation, productivity and creativity. It stifles the solutions women could offer for creating sustainable oceans and livelihoods through fishing. They have not always been able to fully enjoy the rewards of the growth in world’s economies and the roles they have played in helping expand sectors across the continent are gaining greater recognition. The marine industry in Africa is male dominated, women should be involved in marine industries across Africa. by expanding their roles in shipping, fishing and other sectors of the marine industry.

The government must fully support any similar activities as they can only be good for women, for the promotion of inclusive
But it must not stop there. “Ocean management without women will not work. Ocean management with women will work better, for more people, for the longer term because it is based on larger community consensus.” In Asia-Pacific, women are often the dominant users of marine resources, with some becoming marine specialists – but much more can be done on ways to identify gaps or barriers, and solutions, focusing on women and girls in the developing world.

Ocean health is affected by actions on land and in many sectors and industries. Integrated management seeks to acknowledge these multiple uses and impacts, for more effective results. Integration should also include the diverse user groups, including women and indigenous people. Countries to commit to include women in integrated ocean management planning, using best-practice strategies in acknowledgement of diverse and unique cultures and also need for action on several fronts:

  • Building gender inclusivity and equality into project planning and community development work;
  • Investing in basic science, engineering, technology and mathematics education for girls and women in the region; and
  • Supporting the inclusion of women and minorities in social, professional and political roles at all levels.


Women’s experiences, voices, perspectives and household lives must be included as factors in the solutions to the prodigious challenges facing the oceans. These challenges include overfishing, plastic pollution, protecting marine and coastal areas and climate change. Women are both involved and can be part of the solutions to these challenges.

They play an essential role in food production; when women are given land rights, seeds, technical training and access to markets, food productivity can rise by more than 20%. It stands to reason that a parallel improvement in productivity and sustainable livelihoods could be found in fishing and aquaculture.

There are numerous reasons why women and men are treated differently, and why women are often excluded from decision-making. These include historic and culture-based biases, power imbalances, inadequate or unenforced laws prohibiting discrimination, role restrictions, lack of financial resources and control, and an acceptance of violence and harassment as norms.


Further, much more data and research are needed to uncover the ways that women are impacted in this sector. Data helps to magnify both the problems and their solutions. At present there is little gender-disaggregated data from catch to consumer to help inform policymakers, scientists and activists seeking to improve the state of fishing and the oceans.

As funding is sought through governments, civil society, foundations and the private sector, a ‘Women in Fishing’ venture fund or micro-financing operation should be created to encourage women entrepreneurs and to provide education and awareness. Informal group of leaders from business, science, technology, civil society and international organizations have as their goal to help governments and the international community to fast-track solutions to pollution, overfishing and other challenges facing the oceans.

Encourage the society to embrace gender in their proceedings. It can continue to be at the forefront of gender parity and can ask its people to raise gender issues, ensure women are at the table, urge governments and global institutions to include gender in their deliberations and policies, and encouarge ocean and sustainability groups to focus on gender. It can inspire the creation of guidelines for other groups to follow such as asking for gender balance on panel discussions, highlight the work of scientists and
environmental groups that focus on gender, work with those writing treaties or laws, and suggest that local, regional, national and international bodies have a critical mass of women in their deliberations.

In conclusion: Women may not have all the answers to solving the challenges facing the oceans, but women’s answers must be heard if we want to make the progress that is so essential to our lives and the life of the planet.

Together, heads of state, ministers, policymakers, civil society groups and other stakeholders must come together to honour commitments we have all made to inclusivity in the coastal activies and guarantee that women are not left behind.

It must also not be forgotten that this is not just about women’s roles in developing the potential of the ocean, seas, lakes and rivers around the world. It goes well beyond this.

By showing that women can succeed and thrive as entrepreneurs and independent active agents of change and growth in the marine, we can inspire women in all other sectors of society. If they can succeed in one economy, why not in another? If a woman can rise to the top in a sector of the marine industry.



Effiong Martha 

Category: Youth

20 Years

Victoria Island, Lagos