Gender in Fisheries: A Sea of Opportunities


Understanding the case for gender and sustainable fisheries planning and management.​

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A USAID Learning Initiative

Investigating evidence.

USAID’s Learning Initiative on Women’s Empowerment, Access to Finance, and Sustainable Fisheries explores whether incorporating access to finance and women’s empowerment into USAID fisheries management programs results in improved economic and ecological outcomes. This initiative is a partnership between USAID’s Office for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev) and the USAID Forestry and Biodiversity Office (FAB), with support from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Initiative is currently underway, with final results expected to be released in 2021. 

Supported by an IUCN-USAID partnership

This Learning Initiative taps into support from Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT), a ten-year collaboration between the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev) that was established in 2014. AGENT provides support, capacity building, technical assistance, and research on gender and environmental linkages in order to strengthen ecosystem and gender outcomes. AGENT activities, including this Gender & Fisheries Learning Initiative, are designed to advance existing USAID priorities and policies, including the Agency’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy and Biodiversity Policy.

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Why a Learning Initiative

Understanding the case for gender and sustainable fisheries planning and management.

A growing body of research centers on how women are involved in wild-caught fisheries worldwide, and the critical roles that fisheries play in women’s economic empowerment. USAID and IUCN cataloged this research in a report released in 2019, Advancing Gender in the Environment: Gender in Fisheries – A Sea of Opportunities. In developing this report, USAID and IUCN staff identified a gap in the existing research around women’s empowerment, access to financial services, and the sustainability of fisheries management. While women’s empowerment and access to finance are featured in wild-caught fisheries programming, it is not well understood whether these approaches contribute to sustainable fisheries outcomes. 

What do we hope to learn?

The Learning Initiative is designed to investigate two hypotheses

  1. Empowering women through access to finance and other capacity building interventions results in stronger fisheries management outcomes than programs lacking these elements.
  2. Engaging women as key stakeholders in fisheries management and improving access to financial tools provides meaningful pathways for women’s empowerment.

What is the strategy?

Investigating two hypotheses.
Projects in four countries.

The Learning Initiative uses a mixed-methods approach to assess data from four sites where USAID is engaged in gender and fisheries programming. Three programs (Ghana, the Philippines, and Indonesia) are new or on-going activities, which are focused on improving the management of wild-caught fisheries and have included strong gender elements in their theories of change. One program (Bangladesh) recently completed activities that included work and collected data on the three elements of the Learning Initiative: access to finance, women’s empowerment, and sustainable fisheries management. Findings from all sites will be analyzed to assess whether they are consistent with the hypotheses above.