“There would be no artisanal fishing without women”

The Declaration of Abidjan, on World Fisheries Day 2012, recognizes the work of women fish sellers and processors, and urges African governments to involve them in decision-making.

ABIDJAN (Ivory Coast). “Without women there would be no artisanal fishing”. This statement made by Gaoussou Gueye, secretary general of the African Confederation of Artisanal Fishing Organizations – Caopa, in a massive claiming event held in Abidjan, summarize the spirit of recognition to African fish transformers and fishmongers that prevailed at the recent conference on Improving the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security: the role of women held in Ivory Coast.

A total of 60 women from fifteen countries attended the meeting organized by the Caopa, held in Grand-Bassam between 18 and 22 November, in collaboration with the National Federation of Fish Cooperatives of Ivory Coast – Fenacopeci. The workshops organized during this event were useful to analyze the problems encountered by women working in the processing and trading of fish. Along with other international organizations, the World Rural Forum participated in this event.

Despite the prominence of women in that sector, their role is not sufficiently recognized and they face many problems in their daily work. Often driven out from the places where they perform their job, with limited access to higher quality products, and the added responsibility of feeding their families… their work becomes a constant struggle for their rights.

Marie-Noëlle Koyara, FAO representative in Ivory Coast, said during his speech at the conference that “women tend to be excluded from the most profitable markets and high-paying jobs in the fish processing industry”, even though most of the workers are women in post-harvest phases, such as the processing and marketing of the product.

“Women are more vulnerable to poor quality of services and decreases in price of fish,” she added.

Aware of this helplessness, the Grand Bassam conference participants signed the Declaration of Abidjan, on the occasion of World Fisheries Day on November 21th. In a massive event held in the Palace of Culture in Abidjan, the vice president of the Fenacopeci and women representative of Caopa, Micheline Dion, claimed that competent governments must “involve women in decision-making” and fund their activities of processing and selling “in equitable conditions”. In addition to this, among other claims, she asked to create adequate infrastructures for their work and to facilitate the free movement of fish between states.