Internal Survey Tool Will Measure Gender Integration in Fisheries and Aquaculture

March 23, 2020

Kristen Dechert

In communities worldwide, gender issues in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture have implications for all fish value chain activities, from production through consumption. Research shows that empowering women fishers, processors, traders, and entrepreneurs across the fish value chain can positively impact nutrition and food security, particularly in vulnerable households. To better understand these dynamics, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish (Fish Innovation Lab) is developing an internal survey tool to understand issues of gender equity across its projects.

Adapted from a similar tool developed by Kathleen Ragsdale and Mary Read-Wahidi of the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center (SSRC) and used by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research, the Gender Responsive Aquaculture/Fisheries Development Assessment (GRADA-FIL) is being developed by Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi, who are key gender experts at both innovation labs, and in collaboration with Steven Cole of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. The GRADA-FIL will help the Fish Innovation Lab understand gender integration and dynamics across projects in its research portfolio.

“The GRADA-FIL is an internal assessment to see how the Fish Innovation Lab researchers and partners are being gender responsive in their work,” said Read-Wahidi, an assistant research professor at the SSRC. “It is a chance to be self-reflective and to say, ‘What are we doing to be gender responsive within the Fish Innovation Lab?’”

The survey will be administered online and will take users about 15 minutes to complete. All Fish Innovation Lab stakeholders will take the survey, but it is especially designed for research leads and implementing partners. The tool is structured to gain an understanding of internal stakeholders’ knowledge of and activities related to key gender-equity issues identified by Read-Wahidi, Ragsdale, and Cole across the fish value chain. Some of these issues include lack of access to fish-processing tools for women; increasing women’s potential to generate income from fish value chain activities; gendered forms of coercion, such as ‘sex for fish’ (a phenomenon where men fishers coerce women fish traders into having sex before the men will release their catch to the traders); and gender norms within households in which husbands eat first and wives and children have less access to nutritious food, including protein-rich fish.

“One thing we will ask is that researchers identify successes they’ve had supporting gender integration through their work, and on the flip side, what are the challenges they have encountered supporting gender integration in their work,” said Ragsdale, a research professor at the SSRC. “We’re expecting that some of the responses will show similarities and some will show very different experiences across the various types of projects.”

The survey will be piloted with the Fish Innovation Lab quick start projects in the spring or early summer. Following the pilot test, the full survey will be administered with additional projects and team members later this year. The team expects to administer the survey at least twice in the next three years for assessment at multiple points in time.

In February, Cole traveled to Mississippi State for a week-long work session on the GRADA-FIL. In addition to working on the tool, he also delivered a seminar on campus. Titled “Gender Dynamics in Small-Scale Fisheries and Aquaculture,” this seminar was co-sponsored by the Fish Innovation Lab and the SSRC.

“We are fortunate to have had Dr. Cole visit MSU to share his knowledge on this topic,” said Mark Lawrence, director of the Fish Innovation Lab. “His expertise in the relationships between gender, agriculture, and food, nutrition, and economic security are of interest to researchers and technicians in a variety of fields.”

A renowned scientist and gender expert based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Cole discussed how filling knowledge gaps related to gender equity in fisheries and aquaculture is an important means to enhancing food, nutrition, and economic security of people in low-income settings.

A recording of the seminar is available on the Fish Innovation Lab website.

More information about the GRADA-SIL is available in a recent Soybean Innovation Lab report, and information about both the GRADA-SIL and the GRADA-FIL is available in a recent report from Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment Program.