Gender equality is diluted in commitments made to small-scale fisheries

Lawless, Sarah, Cohen, Philippa J., Mangubhai, Sangeeta, Kleiber, Danika, and Morrison, Tiffany H. (2021) Gender equality is diluted in commitments made to small-scale fisheries. World Development, 140. 105348. pp. 1-15.

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Gender equality is a mainstream principle of good environmental governance and sustainable development. Progress toward gender equality in the fisheries sector is critical for effective and equitable development outcomes in coastal countries. However, while commitments to gender equality have surged at global, regional and national levels, little is known about how this principle is constructed, and implemented across different geographies and contexts. Consequently, progress toward gender equality is difficult to assess and navigate. To identify influential policy instruments (n = 76), we conducted key-informant interviews with governance actors engaged in small-scale fisheries (n = 26) and gender and development (n = 9) sectors across the Pacific Islands region. We systematically analysed these instruments according to (1) representations of gender and gender equality, (2) rationales for pursing gender, and (3) gender strategies and actions. We found that fisheries policy instruments frequently narrowed the concept of gender to a focus on women, whereas gender and development policy instruments considered gender as diverse social identities, norms and relations. In fisheries policy instruments, rationales for pursuing gender equality diverged substantially yet, overall the principle was predominantly pursued for instrumental (i.e., improved environmental outcomes) rather than intrinsic (i.e., an inherent value in fairness) reasons. Over two-thirds of gender equality strategies focused on an organization's own human resourcing and project assessments, rather than on direct action within communities, or for women and men reliant on fisheries. Our findings illustrate gender equality commitments and investments to be narrow and outdated. Critical shifts in dominant gender equality narratives and objectives, and an embrace of multi-level strategies, provide opportunities for fisheries governance and development agendas to rise to current best practice, and ultimately make meaningful (opposed to rhetorical) progress toward gender equality. The methodological approach we develop holds value for other development sectors to critically examine, and subsequently enhance, commitment toward gender equality.

Item ID: 66880
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-5991
Keywords: Environmental governance, Equity, Pacific, Sustainable Development Goal 5, Women
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Copyright Information: (C) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 4 of the following PhD thesis: Lawless, Sarah M. (2021) Gender equality in Pacific small-scale fisheries governance: current progress and future prospects. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Pew Charitable Trusts
Projects and Grants: ACIAR FIS/2016/300
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2021 01:27
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440705 Gender, policy and administration @ 40%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441012 Sociology of inequalities @ 30%
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3005 Fisheries sciences > 300505 Fisheries management @ 30%
SEO Codes: 23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2301 Community services > 230108 Gender and sexualities @ 40%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1902 Environmental policy, legislation and standards > 190299 Environmental policy, legislation and standards not elsewhere classified @ 30%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 30%
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