The fishing occupation is often seen as a male dominated area. It takes a critical analysis in the entire value chain to appreciate the enormous role women play in the fisheries sector. Fishing drives the economy of the coastal communities in the country.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development projects, 10 per cent of Ghana’s population depend on the sector.
For most of the women in these fishing communities, their occupation is not just for a livelihood but a tradition that needs to be kept. The trade is mostly handed over to them by their mothers and great grandmothers and has become their way of life.
M.J. Williams et al put this in a very succinct way thus “fishing and aquaculture are usually pictured as occupations or recreations of men hauling nets and lines in dangerous seas, constructing fish- ponds and cages and negotiating with fish traders and fisheries officials.
“Throughout the world, what these pictures miss are the contributions and roles of women, youths and even children.”
The dwindling fortunes within the fisheries sector therefore presents a huge challenge for most of these women as far as their daily livelihood is concerned.
An interaction with Madam Emelia Abaka Edu, a fish monger at Axim, underscored the need for all fish mongers to have a common voice to demand for proper infrastructure from their political leaders ahead of the December polls.
“We need special training on handling of fish hygienically and support in the construction of the improved ‘ahotor’ ovens for smoking our fish. The old ‘chorkor’ ovens are not good for smoking as the fish absorbs a lot of smoke in the process. We need the government and private sector to subsidise the cost in the construction of the ‘ahotor’ ovens to make it affordable for most women,” Madam Edu added.
Oxfam and partners conducted a research on Gender Enterprise Marketing within the fisheries value chain and recommended the need for awareness creation on proper handling of fish to enable most of the fish mongers access formal markets.
“The women need support in the area of trainings and capacity building in order to establish profits and ultimately improve their livelihoods. Support for the women are mostly from NGOs but this is not extensive and so accessibility is low.
“The government institutions like the National Board for Small Scale Industry can provide the needed capacity building in the areas of book-keeping, records and literacy”- Oxfam Gender Enterprise Marketing (GEM) Report 2019.”
As we celebrate the international day of the rural woman; let’s put the spotlight on our rural woman in Ghana’s coastal communities and highlight the awesome role they play in ensuring we enjoy our kenkey, waakye, fufu and banku with fish every day.
In my recent tour in some coastal communities in the Central and Western Regions, I visited the shed of a fish monger in Dixcove, the smoke I had to endure within the few minutes I spent there turned my eyes red while gasping for breath.
I walked out feeling so proud of the dozens of women who go through this daily to ensure we all get smoked tuna for our stew and soup as often as we want.
Let’s drum it loud enough, that our fish mongers deserve structured training and a framework to ensure that in the next few months, all these women will be migrated onto the ahotor ovens.
The Far Ban Bo Project supported by the European Union in collaboration with Care International Ghana, Friends of the Nation and Oxfam say ‘ayekoo’ to all our women fish mongers.
Let’s work towards building their resilience to adapt better during and after this Covid19 pandemic.
The writer is a Media and Communicatuions Lead at Oxfam in Ghana