By Clifford Okyere.
The fisheries industry in Ghana, like in many developing countries, thrives on the dedication and hard work of countless individuals. Among these unsung heroes are women, who play a vital role in sustaining this crucial sector. In Ghana, women have been the unyielding backbone of the fisheries industry, contributing significantly to its growth and sustainability. But with their unwavering quest to keep the industry afloat, they are often sidelined and are faced with functional predicaments, which tend to stall their progress. Such include physical, mental, and sexual abuse, discrimination, poverty, and inequality.
Women’s Contribution to Ghana’s Fisheries
Women are extensively involved in the processing and marketing of fish. They transform fresh catches into various value-added products such as smoked fish, dried fish, and fish fillets. Their skillful processing techniques not only increase the shelf life of fish but also cater to the diverse preferences of consumers.
Women are the face of the local fish markets in Ghana. They exhibit extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit by trading fish, negotiating prices, and ensuring a steady supply of seafood to communities. Their role in connecting producers with consumers keeps the industry running smoothly.
Fishing Bosses: While this is less uncommon, women are increasingly participating and playing key roles in the actual fishing industry. They own a greater number of sea vessels, which these artisanal fisher folks use, and many have better managed them than the men. This shift demonstrates their determination to diversify their roles within the industry.
Community Leadership: Women often take on leadership roles within their fishing communities. They organise savings and credit associations, advocate for better fishing practices, and work to improve the living conditions of their fellow women.
Challenges Faced by Women in Ghana’s Fisheries
Limited Access to Resources: Women often encounter barriers in accessing essential resources like credit, fishing gear, and technology. This hampers their ability to expand their businesses or adopt more sustainable fishing practices.
Gender-Based Discrimination: Discrimination remains a pervasive issue in the fisheries sector. Women face unequal pay, exclusion from decision-making processes, and harassment, both at sea and in the marketplace.
Lack of Training and Education: Access to training and education opportunities remains limited for women in the fisheries industry. This restricts their ability to adopt modern and sustainable fishing practices, hindering the sector’s long-term viability.
Solutions and the Way Forward
Empowerment through Education: To enhance women’s contributions to the fishing industry, there is a need for targeted training and education programs. These programs should cover topics like sustainable fishing practices, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship skills.
Promoting Gender Equality: Initiatives that promote gender equality within the industry should be encouraged. This includes ensuring equal pay for equal work, combating harassment, and actively involving women in decision-making processes.
Access to Resources: Measures should be put in place to improve women’s access to essential resources like credit, fishing gear, and technology. This can be achieved through government policies and partnerships with NGOs and international organisations.
The role of women in Ghana’s fisheries industry is nothing short of extraordinary. Their contributions extend from processing and marketing to trading and even fishing itself. It is crucial that Ghana and other developing countries recognise the invaluable role women play in the fisheries sector and take concerted action to address the challenges they face. Empowering women in the industry not only ensures its sustainability but also leads to more prosperous fishing communities and a brighter future for all involved. As these remarkable women continue to stride harder, it is our collective responsibility to provide the support and opportunities they need to thrive.