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A matrix and tools for gender analysis in fisheries and aquaculture

A gender analytical matrix especially adapted for the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sector helps to provide structure, cohesion and clarity to the significant dimensions of gender that needs to be understood in addressing research questions and interventions within the sector. The analytical matrix needs to be related to the overall questions that will be asked and issues to be resolved in fisheries or aquaculture research projects and thus can differ accordingly. These can include concerns related to conservation of marine protected areas, community-management or co-management of aquatic resources; issues around risk, vulnerability and resilience; value chains, fair trade and certification; or increasing the overall well-being of fishing communities.

There are many gender analytical frameworks or approaches used globally. Five of the commonly applied frameworks that originate within liberal, feminist and political economy approaches encompass a range from focusing on economic efficiency (Harvard Analytical Framework, Overhalt et al. 1985), unequal gender relations (Social Relations Approach, Kabeer 1994), explicitly political issues of empowerment (Women’s Empowerment Approach developed by Zambian expert Longwe, ILO 1998), links with development planning (Moser Gender Planning Framework, Moser 1993) to community-based understandings of gender differences (Gender Analysis Matrix, Parker 1993). There are other frameworks not primarily focused on gender, such as the Capabilities and Vulnerabilities Framework or the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework, which if used in the ‘right way” can provide valuable insights into gender relations and disparities, as well.

These frameworks by themselves cannot be considered as simple, ready-made formulae to conduct gender analysis. It is important to understand the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of these frameworks (Warren 2007), their strengths and weaknesses, and which contexts are appropriate for their use. Many organizations and researchers make up their own frameworks for gender analysis, based on their strategic priorities or research agendas, resulting in a diversity of approaches. A useful step-by-step introduction that applies to a broad range of projects is offered by Hunt (2004).

Frameworks, matrices and tools are merely a means to an end – in this case, rigorous gender analysis in research towards gender equality in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. They cannot be applied mechanically but need to be used with flexibility and creativity, adapted to the needs of local socio-cultural and linguistic contexts, and the overall research questions and the project implementation goals you have in mind. Care needs to be exercised in translation. Vital skills such as listening, building rapport, discussing and learning from respondents are necessary to use this framework and tools effectively.

The analytical matrix designed by WorldFish incorporates what we would consider the strengths of previous frameworks while adapting these to the kind of gender analysis that needs to be done within small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, where reduction of poverty and hunger are the ultimate goals. It is based on the premise that the intention of all development interventions and the research underpinning that is the well-being of human beings. This matrix is thus based on a well-being approach (McGregor 2007) and builds on Kabeer’s (1996, 2001, 2003) social relations approach to gender analysis.

A well-being approach to gender analysis focuses on livelihood strategies pursued by human actors.

  • Well-being can be categorized into three main dimensions: material, social and cognitive.
  • Livelihood strategies are based on needs, assets/resources, capabilities, motivations, aspirations, identities, social relations, rights and obligations, which can differ among men and women.
  • These differences in turn often lead to livelihood strategies and well-being outcomes that differ among women and men. Key to understanding gender disparities and the potential for women’s empowerment is resources (assets), agency (ability to make decisions) and achievements (outcomes).
  • These differences are grounded in unequal political, economic, social, cultural and ecological (biological) structures/institutions.
  • They are shaped by the interaction between structures and actors within systems.
  • Governance is a way of mediating and negotiating these differences so that wellbeing outcomes in development are gender equitable.
How does a wellbeing approach to gender analysis add value?
  • An understanding of the different needs, resources/assets, capabilities, motivations, aspirations, identities, social relations, rights and obligations upon which livelihood strategies of women and men in fisheries/aquaculture are based
  • An analysis of the embeddedness of these differences within structures/systems larger than the fisheries and aquaculture sector
  • Opportunity to assess how fisheries governance could be used to negotiate the rights and obligations of women and men in order to achieve gender equitable wellbeing outcomes

Matrix for gender analysis in fisheries and aquaculture research
The analytical matrix below outlines the different dimensions of gender relations that need to be looked at and the components of each of the dimensions. The dimensions are explained by posing a set of questions, and the components provide details of the substance that needs to be investigated. While the focus of the analysis is on the social dimensions of gender relations as gender is a social construct, human interaction within eco-systems underpins the matrix.


Dimensions of analysis


1. Livelihood activities, roles and relations
  • What activities do men and women engage in?
  • Where (location/patterns of mobility)
  • When (daily, seasonal, life cycle patterns)?
  • How have these changed during their life time? Why?
  • Productive roles (paid work, self-employment, and subsistence production, including gleaning, hunting and gathering; specify species of fish and livestock, types of crops)
  • Reproductive roles (domestic work, gathering of water and firewood, child care and care of the sick and elderly)
  • Community participation/self-help (voluntary work for the benefit of the community or groups)
  • Community politics (representation on behalf of the community or a group)
2. Assets, capabilities and shocks
  • What livelihood assets/capabilities/ opportunities do men and women have?
  • What are shocks/risks that may affect women and men differently?
  • What are the differential vulnerabilities and coping strategies of women and men?
  • How have these changed in their life time? Why?
  • Human assets (e.g. health services, education, skills, local knowledge)
  • Natural assets (e.g. land, water)
  • Social assets (e.g. social networks, organizations)
  • Physical assets (e.g. fishing gear, vessels, agricultural tools, machinery, houses, connectivity)
  • Financial assets (e.g. income, savings, jewelry, credit, insurance)
  • Shocks (e.g. illness, life cycle events such as birth, marriage and death, harvest loss, natural disasters such as drought, floods, tsunamis, storms)
  • How are assets, shocks and vulnerabilities interlinked to bring about different outcomes for men and women?
3. Power and decision-making
  • What decision-making do men and/or women participate in?
  • What decision-making do men and/or women usually control?
  • What constraints do they face?
  • How have these changed in their life time? Why?
  • Household level (e.g. decisions over household management, allocation of labor and resources)
  • Community level (e.g. decisions on the management of community aquatic resources)
  • Regional and national level (e.g. contribution/access to administration/ institutions dealing with aquatic agricultural resources)
4. Needs, priorities and aspirations
  • What are women’s and men’s needs and priorities?
  • What perspectives do they have on appropriate and sustainable ways of addressing their needs?
  • Have these needs changed over time? Why?
  • What are their differential aspirations for the future? Why?
Needs and priorities
  • "Practical" gender needs (i.e. in the context of the existing gender roles and resources e.g. improved processing technology to save women time, energy and drudgery)
  • "Strategic" gender needs (i.e. requiring changes to existing gender roles and resources to create greater equality of opportunity and benefit e.g. increasing women’s access to leadership in farming/fishing/trading/processing associations)


  • Access to and quality of current services
  • Criteria and indicators of poverty and well-being
  • Future aspirations for individuals and household members
  • Future aspirations for community/region/nation
5. Institutions, mechanisms and processes of governance
  • Are market and governance structures and mechanisms gender- equitable?
  • Do governance goals take into account women’s concerns?
  • Are governance principles gender inclusive?
  • Are governance processes gender inclusive?
  • How have these changed over the years? Why?
  • Ways in which markets work differently for men and women; differential placement in value chains
  • Extent to which women’s roles are taken into account in resource use and conservation of resources, such as fish stocks, fodder, firewood and forest products
  • Extent to which women’s needs and perceptions are taken into account in addressing poverty reduction
  • Extent to which principles of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, responsiveness, equity are applied to women
  • Extent of women’s participation in resource management; clarity in definition and exercise of their rights, obligations and voice
  • The ratio of male: female staff in research and management in institutions related to aquatic agricultural systems; extent of training received in gender concepts and analysis by both female and male staff
Tools for Dimension 1 of the Analytical Matrix: Livelihood activities, roles and responsibilities
Three detailed tools for data collection are outlined for addressing dimension 1 of the analytical framework. Tool 1 on the gender division of labor by time spent on each task helps to clarify issues around livelihood activities. This can be used to assess detailed time budgets for a household. The tool provides results on the gender differentials between men and women on time spent in each livelihood activity. This can be done for an indicative sample of households with different combinations of livelihood activities, primarily through interviews - with some observations to cross-check whether the information is correct.
Tool 1: Assessing gender division of labor by time spent at household-level


# women in HH

# hrs/day spent by women

# men in the HH

# hrs/day spent by men

# female children in the HH

# hrs/day spent by female children

# male children in the HH

# hrs/day spent by male children

Fisheries production









Collecting bait









-specified by major species



























Net/gear mending









Fetching fuel









Pulling in boats









Boat/engine repair









Aquaculture production









Pond preparation









Cage/pen/tank construction and repair


















Fish stocking



























Daily care


















Net mending


















Washing, cutting and cleaning




































Boiling (e.g. mollusks)









Making fish paste, sauce, etc.









Making shell handicrafts






















































Other livelihood activities









Crop farming









Livestock rearing


















Micro-enterprises/ skilled crafts


















Public sector employment









Private sector employment









Fetching water









Gathering firewood









Gathering fodder









Gathering fruit, greens, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, etc


















Tool 2 can be used at the community level to determine general patterns to tasks which are considered female or male, although individual members might deviate from the expected norms. Use a standard number of days of observation for each activity, depending on the time available. While there is no “correct” number of observations/days, doing just one or two might be misleading because it might represent an “idiosyncratic” pattern of a particular community or set of households during a particular season. Thus, observations of the important stages of the cropping or production cycle (i.e. land/pond preparation; seeding, transplanting/stocking, weeding/feeding/maintenance and harvesting) need to be done, as well as “low season” activities. For fishing, high and low season activities need to be observed. It is best to cross-check by also asking questions from respondents in household questionnaires or focus group meetings. However, please keep in mind that respondents will often describe the “ideal” gender division of tasks, rather than the “actual” reality on the ground. Thus, observation to determine what people actually do is generally more valid than what respondents might be saying they are doing. The total percentages of women, men and children observed in each task indicated should add up to 100%.
Tool 2: Gender division of labor by task at community level


% Women

% Men

%  Female children

% Male children


Fisheries production












Aquaculture production
























Other livelihood activities



















The results from data collected with tools that assess the gender division of labor and time allocation can be used to analyze several important issues:

  1. The typical number and pattern of activities within a household livelihood portfolio and notable deviations among households
  2. The extent of time spent on fisheries/ aquaculture-related tasks vs. other tasks by members of the household, differentiated among women, men and children
  3. The general patterns of the gender division of labor within a community, and extent of deviation within households Once these aspects are understood the next step is to look at the differential returns women and men get for their work effort. For each of the activities, the following needs to be established:
  4. Which activities are remunerated by wages or cash income from sales?
  5. Which activities are unwaged or will not bring cash returns?
  6. Which activities are enabling of other activities that are remunerated by wages or cash income?
  7. Which activities are significant for maintaining reciprocity or reciprocal relations (could be both economic, such as customary forms of labor exchange or social such as providing assistance to a neighbor in a time of need)?
  8. Which activities are important for maintaining or increasing social status or building political power?
Tool 3 helps to analyze the intersection of the gender division of labor with seasonality, geographical space and access to such spaces. Here some aspects of the first dimension on tasks and roles, and the second dimension, on assets are combined.

Tool 3: Intersection of gender with seasonality, space and tenure profile of livelihood activities at community level



  • Mostly male
  • Mostly female
  • Both


  • Dry
  • Wet
  • Flood
  • Windy

(Jan- Dec)

Space category

  • Homestead
  • Field
  • Lagoon
  • River
  • Beach
  • Sea
  • Mangrove
  • Forest


  • Open access
  • Community access
  • Freehold/Private

Fisheries production












Aquaculture production
























Other livelihood activities






This tool offers a dynamic overview of how gender relations are inscribed in time and space and whether the community or society in question is achieving a relative sense of balance between the activities of the two groups or not. It is very valuable to determine the potential for and consequences of new interventions, such as alternative livelihoods. Questions that can be asked:
  1. Is one group monopolizing space at the expense of the other group?
  2. Is one group more or less burdened with work during a particular season?
  3. How do seasonality (high and low seasons) and time (hours spent in work) intersect with gender norms and relations?
  4. Which space and time could be occupied by a new livelihood activity? Would the new activity favor or disadvantage one group in the context of current gender configurations?