Women in Small-Scale Fisheries: Peer-to-Peer Learning Workshop

By Bola Erinosho, Martha Jonas, Alana Malinde S. N. Lancaster, Aphiwe Moshani, Mia Strand, Jackie Sunde, and David Wilson

From 11-13 June 2024, One Ocean Hub convened a three-day workshop focused on Women in Small-Scale Fisheries in Cape Coast, Ghana.

This workshop centred on bringing together in person – for the first time – key knowledge holders from across the small-scale fishing communities that Hub researchers have been collaborating with in Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa.

Focusing on women whose voices continue to be underrepresented in both national and international processes and practices relating to fisheries management, this workshop centred on peer-to-peer sharing and knowledge exchange. The intention was to foster and facilitate discussions between women in small-scale fisheries, building from and moving beyond cross-country engagements between researchers, to facilitate cross-country dialogue between rights holders and ocean defenders.

We believe this form of dialogue, shared learning and capacity strengthening through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange is and will be fundamental to future action towards just and sustainable ocean governance; empowering women not only to be experts in their own contexts, but also in international fora as part of an African-focused network of women leaders in the context of small-scale fisheries.

Wisdom opening panel discussion with Elmina-based fish traders, including Peace Gavour – photo: david wilson

Our key objectives were to:

  • facilitate shared learning between women leaders and representatives in small-scale fisheries in Africa.
  • send a clear message of our recognition of our community partners’ existing knowledge and crucial role(s) in small-scale fisheries management, providing a platform for capacity strengthening through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.
  • lay the foundations to foster a continental network of women in small-scale fisheries in Africa with the aim of strengthening cross-country links to support empowerment of women within decision-making.
  • explore opportunities and challenges of this peer-to-peer approach, learning from the successes and challenges of the workshop itself, including the logistical challenges surrounding the organisation and facilitation of the workshop.
  • inform the next steps and legacy activities from this stage of the Hub, as well as potential future iterations of the Hub, by prioritising the perspectives of women on the current opportunities and challenges surrounding their role in ocean governance and small-scale fisheries management.
Demonstration of fish smoking technique at Elmina

The workshop brought together seventeen fishers from different regions of each of the three countries represented., This included: four fishers from South Africa (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape provinces), four fishers from Namibia (Erongo region), and nine fish processors and marketers from Ghana (Western, Central, Greater Accra, and Volta regions).

On the opening day, participants shared the different contexts in which they work, including their various roles in fisheries across the value chain and how this is informed by deep local knowledge, distinctive histories and cultural norms. Participants were then given a guided tour of a fish smoking centre in Elmina, to understand how fish are processed and marketed in Ghana.

presenting on fisheries (from left to right) – Olivia, Christine, Linea, and Hambeleleni on Namibia, Priscilla on Ghana, Melisa on South Africa – photos: david wilson

On the second day, participants focused on discussion of fish marketing and preservation methods, considering the opportunities that could be learned from sharing across different contexts and methods. In the afternoon, the focus shifted to mapping power dynamics within their communities, sharing experiences surrounding decision-making and charting the main challenges that they face in having their voices heard within and beyond their communities, and sharing ideas and approaches to addressing these challenges.

On the final day, participants discussed future challenges and opportunities in mixed country groups, sharing their main concerns surrounding the future of their communities. In the final roundtable, participants reflected on the main points raised over the course of the workshop, outlining their aspirations to shape the future of the industry and what support they need for this.

Ghanaian, South African & Namibian groups in discussion – photo: david wilson

The workshop closed with some impromptu song and dance, sharing songs from across the different regions and countries.

Across the three days, the major points raised by participants included:

  • The lack of meaningful consultation of women within governance decision-making, particularly at a national level across each country.
  • The need for partner organisations to work closely with small-scale fishers to better align with and support their needs, aspirations, and challenges rather than assuming/ setting the agenda themselves.
  • The intense politicisation of fisheries and dominance of external industries, including industrial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and oil and gas to the detriment or exclusion of small-scale fisheries.
  • The importance of access to capital support for women in fisheries, which was starkly different across each country context.
  • The desire to share knowledge and skills surrounding fishing techniques, processing methods, conservation approaches, and approaches to community organisation with each other as well as to gain greater recognition of this knowledge within decision-making processes.
Closing out the workshop with song and dance – photo: david wilson

During the final roundtable, participants shared their gratitude for being able to take part in a workshop of this kind, particularly the opportunity to learn from fisheries participants from different countries and to share their own knowledge with them directly. They intend to continue to develop the connections made during this workshop, supporting each other in their determination to have their voices heard, and to shape the future direction of the fishing industry across their different contexts.

As facilitators, we had recognised various challenges when deciding to organise this form of peer-to-peer workshop. This included: selecting a limited number of knowledge holders in an equitable and fair manner; language and cultural barriers between participants; the available time and capacity of knowledge holders; and travel logistics, especially surrounding out-of-country travel.

While these were all considerable challenges that required careful planning and significant time investment, we were able to make this work successfully by ensuring we dedicated significant time to programme co-development with each of our participants.

This proved to be an incredibly rewarding and poignant moment for all of the participants and facilitators, and we would encourage all researchers reading this to consider new ways to bring together knowledge holders and stakeholders from different contexts for peer-to-peer learning and sharing.  

Workshop participants and facilitators Photo: david wilson

Related SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Quality education
  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Life below water
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions