A gender lens on women’s harvesting activities and interactions with local marine governance in a South Pacific fishing community
Women play an important role within small-scale fishing communities in the South Pacific, contributing to food security and income. Yet, decisions on the management of coastal fisheries are mostly taken by male community leaders. Given that women and men interact with marine spaces differently, there is a need to further analyze women’s and men’s differentiated roles and participation in marine resource use and governance. This study does so by drawing on qualitative data from a case study in Solomon Islands. In the fishing community studied here, women had crucial and differentiated effects on social, economic, and ecological sustainability. Our study reveals that women provided significant social and economic benefits to their families and the broader community. At the same time, we find that some women were inclined towards breaking local marine management rules (i.e., potentially lowering positive ecological effects of the conservation efforts) because (1) women had been little involved in the decision-making with regard to local marine management; (2) women had partly lost trust in the local male leadership due to a perceived misuse of money; and (3) women were more constrained in their fishing activities because a marine closure was located where mainly women used to fish. Our study highlights the importance of paying attention to women’s needs and actions in the governance of the fishery—including both the positive as well as potentially negative consequences thereof. Furthermore, our study shows that, besides gender, other socio-cultural variables (i.e., religious denomination and place of birth) shaped a person’s role and interactions in the fishery. It thus adds weight to intersectional approaches to gender.