8 March, the world is marking International Women’s Day, which is both a celebration of women’s many achievements as well as a call to action for accelerating gender equality (SDG 5).

Dear friends and colleagues,

Today, 8 March, the world is marking International Women’s Day, which is both a celebration of women’s many achievements as well as a call to action for accelerating gender equality (SDG 5).

The theme this year is Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’, which focuses on innovations that disrupt ‘business as usual’ as a way to remove structural barriers to gender equality.

But what are these disruptive innovations? And who designs and implements them? Persistent gender imbalances in many spheres of life often limit women from contributing to and benefiting equally from products and approaches that will lead to transformative change for all. Here, we highlight some of the innovations being developed and strategies being taken by WorldFish and its partners to disrupt these imbalances:

  • As a foundational element, we are contributing to closing the gender data gap by improving sex-disaggregated data. The importance of this is elegantly expressed by Dr. Danika Kleiber, a Research Fellow working with WorldFish and James Cook University, in an article about ‘good science’ in small-scale fisheries research.

  • Another key area of gender imbalance that we are addressing is the need for increased recognition of women in the fisheries sector in policy through to local governance. Among the projects working to address this and related gender barriers is Pathways , which aims to improve the food and nutrition security of Pacific coastal communities through more productive and resilient fisheries. The Pathways’ gender agenda , published this month, formulates the gender-integrated research that is being undertaken to achieve the project’s objectives.

  • As a foundation for larger lines of impact regarding inclusive aquaculture and women’s empowerment, in Bangladesh we carried out a small strategic gender study to generate insights into the gendered ownership of aquaculture resources and the effect of this on associated risks and benefits.

  • We have been pioneering the gender-transformative approach in fisheries and aquaculture since 2012. The approach complements but goes beyond ‘business as usual’ gender approaches that work around gender barriers; instead, it works with women and men fishers, producers and value chain actors to tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality in joint learning-based, locally driven and appropriate ways.

  • In this special interactive timeline , we look at the history and genesis of the gender-transformative approach as an integral part of our research efforts to improve food and nutrition security, wellbeing and equality.

  • In Zambia, for example, we worked with partners to apply a quasi-experimental approach to test an innovative gender-transformative strategy. The strategy comprised drama skits combined with technical fish-processing participatory action research to spark shifts in constraining gender norms in fishing communities. These enabled women processors in the Barotse Floodplain to benefit more equitably from improved technologies and innovation processes and to expand their control over fishing assets.

  • We have also been addressing gender—and social—imbalances and inequities through shaping global SDG-related dialogue and gender research agendas. For example, as well as being a gold sponsor of the 7th Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Conference in 2018, myself and other members of our leadership team have promoted gender-inclusive, pro-poor small-scale fisheries, notably at the first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Kenya.

  • In an interview , Gender Research Leader Dr. Cynthia McDougall speaks to this, highlighting how it is critical for gender research to influence global dialogue and momentum towards a blue economy, including what barriers we need to address to ensure this blue future is inclusive and sustainable.

As we expand our research in Africa, Asia and the Pacific,  and make progress toward the ambitious gender targets we have set in the   WorldFish  and   FISH  strategies, we are working to ensure that our staff and leadership  mirror the communities we serve.

I’m pleased to say that in the past year, the number of women in science at WorldFish has increased by 10 percent to just under 40 percent. And for the first time in our organization’s history, we have a 50-50 gender balance in our leadership team.

This is an achievement we will continue to build upon. In the meantime, I invite you to join us on Facebook and Twitter, where we will be posting photos and updates from events being held around our organization across Africa, Asia and the Pacific on this important day.

Gareth Johnstone
Director General