News / 5 March 2020

Why women are not seen as fisherfolk in Indonesia

In Indonesia, with its many islands and long coastline, for many communities fishing is an important livelihood strategy for many, both men and women. However, officially the women are often not counted as fisherfolk. And this is not a minor detail. It makes that their interests are being neglected. Both ENDS' partner Solidaritas Perempuan works with these women to amplify their voices.

In Indonesia, men are seen as the head of the household. Only households that are "headed" by a fisherman are counted as fishing households. However, women play key roles in the fishing industry, such as repairing nets and processing fish. Also, there are many cases where a woman collects shrimps, crabs and other (shell)fish, and her husband has another profession, for example in construction or transportation.

Fisherwomen's voices

This situation means that fisherwomen's voices are being structurally ignored. Local governments, for example, are offering programmes to support fishermen with loans, subsidies or training. Fisherwomen are not eligible for this and are not invited to participate.

Furthermore, in many places in Indonesia the government is planning or implementing infrastructural projects such as land reclamation and port development, activities in which Dutch companies often play a large role. However, fishing communities are often far from happy with these projects; see for example the protests against the NCICD-project in Jakarta or the land reclamation in Makassar. These kinds of projects all too often affect the income of fisherfolk families, as fishing grounds are being destroyed or the routes they take with their boats are being blocked.

However, when assessing the impact such a project will have on the communities, the differentiated impacts on women are not taken into account. As only fishermen are consulted, the interests of the fisherwomen are not taken in to account. Let alone that they'd be compensated for their income loss.

"If women stop, the world stops": strike on International Women's Day

In order to change this unequal situation, women's rights organization Solidaritas Perempuan (meaning "Women Solidarity") is conducting a Participatory Action Research with the fisherwomen from Makassar and other coastal communities. The goal is to hear about their struggles and needs, to translate these into concrete asks to their governments and to amplify their voices this way.

One of the actions they undertake is a strike on International Women's Day: with the slogan "When women stop, the world stops" they will show how much work is not done if women stop working for a day. While this seems just a humorous action, a serious ask is underneath. The women call on the Indonesian government to change its policy, recognize fisherwomen as such, and to make gendered impact assessments obligatory for infrastructure projects.

From our side in the Netherlands, we call on Dutch companies carrying out these infrastructure projects or providing the necessary technical research for them, to also start to conduct meaningful gender impact assessments, as specified by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

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