LILONGWE, Malawi 28th February, 2022 (AEJ) - African Women Fish Network (AWFISHNET) Malawi chapter has been launched in Lilongwe by Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Eisenhower Mkaka under the stewardship of the African Union Inter-African Bureau on Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the African Union Development Agency – NEPAD.
AWFISHNET is part of the European Union funded FishGov-2 building up on the first phase of the governance project that aims at, “Enhancing sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture development in Africa – programme for accelerated reform of the sector.” Fish Gov-2 was launched in early 2021.
Other than supporting women FishGov-2 project will also support evidence – based decision making on sustainable fisheries and aquaculture through improved knowledge, effective consultation, solid reporting, and the promotion of cross-sectoral approaches.
Speaking during official launch of the Malawian chapter, Mkaka noted that recent statistics for Malawi reveal that women make up more than a third 36 percent of the work force in the aquaculture sub-sector and more than half 60 percent in the capture fisheries sub-sector.
The majority of women 80 percent are employed in post-harvest activities, making significant contribution to food security, livelihoods and household incomes.
“However, women remain marginalized, both in terms of their participation in fishing and fish farming related activities as well as their role in decision-making processes at both local and national level. Lack of access to credit, low levels of literacy, low bargaining power, due partly to weak organization, poor access to the fishery resources and capital items including land, are some of the effects of the marginalization of women in the sector,” Mkaka told participants that graced the official opening of the network launch.
Mkaka was however optimistic that considering that women are crucial players in the fisheries sector this network will enhance cooperation among them to share best practices, experiences and advocate for issues affecting them.
Speaking on behalf of development partners Zhijun Chen, Food and Agriculture Organization resident representative said as a UN body they are committed to provide support to the network so that women benefit fully in the fisheries sector.
“The establishment of this network in more than 40 countries has made huge impact. In these countries they have trading markets, and increased their bargaining power. We have seen powerful partnerships in the countries that this body has been in existence,” Chen told the women that attended the event.
Senior Fisheries Technical Advisor at the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Motseki Hlatshwayo, a champion of fisheries at regional level observed that this is a huge step forward to ensure that the bias is broken in the fisheries sector. “This year's theme for women's Day is "breaking the bias," therefore it is in line with this launch,” explained Hlatshwayo.
Hlatshwayo added that women tend to get a small proportion of the value, after processing fish while middle men enjoy a lion's share. Therefore, this body wants to address such discrepancies to level the playing field.
In 2014, African Heads of States and Governments, recognizing the critical importance of fisheries and aquaculture sectors, adopted the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy (PFRS) and Africa Blue Economy Strategy (ABES) that provides strategic guidance for developing these sectors on the continent.
As such FIshGov 2 the European Union funded project is a flagship initiative led by AU-IBAR and AUDA-NEPAD in accelerating fisheries and aquaculture governance at national level. The project aligns with both the ABES and the PFRS.
AU-IBAR Monitoring and Evaluation Expert, Admore Chakadenga underscored a need for women to be given an opportunity to spearhead the fisheries sector and given positions in decision making capacities.
“The action to establish a national AWFISHNET chapter in Malawi is therefore in compliance with the PFRS and ABES that advocate the engagement of non-state actors through organised networks as a mechanism for fostering equity and all-inclusive growth within the sector by empowering the disadvantaged (especially women and youth) to participate and contribute across all levels of decision making and practice." Chikadenga pointed during the launch.
Interim chairperson for AWFISHNET Malawi chapter, Violet Kanyamula expressed excitement about the network launch.
Kanyamula was hopeful that the network will provide a window to establish good international markets for their value-added fish products, in turn create more opportunities for job creation.
Additional reporting by Fostina Kamanga photos by Joe Gama