COVID-19 impacts on women fish processors and traders in sub-Saharan Africa: 10 recommendations for building forward better
Women participate in all parts of fish food systems but are most visible in post-harvest processing and trade of fish. More than 90 percent of women in the African fisheries and aquaculture sector earn their livelihoods in post-harvest work (de Graaf and Garibaldi 2014). Women fish processors and traders are vital to the region’s food and nutrition security. They add value and shepherd quality fish from sources of production to local, national, regional and international consumers. Preexisting patterns of inequality in fish food systems, including inequitable gendered divisions of labor and gender inequalities in financial and physical assets, have been amplified by COVID-19 containment measures and food system disruptions. As a result, women fish processors and traders have been hit especially hard by disruptions to fish food system functions, declines in individual well-being and reduced access to basic household needs. Effective and equitable COVID-19 recovery in sub-Saharan Africa requires that decision-makers and development agencies understand and immediately respond to the needs of women fish processors and traders and address underlying barriers to equity. Responses include listening to women in COVID-19 and sector recovery decisions and investing in strategies to address preexisting, harmful gender dynamics, like those that underpin harassment and transactional sex-for-fish practices. They also include building the resilience of women and the fish food systems in which they work by capitalizing on emergent opportunities, such as social protection that works for both women and men and strengthening growing networks of women entrepreneurs. Supporting and prioritizing an inclusive and equitable COVID-19 recovery lays the foundation for adaptive capacity and resilience of fish food systems and the women that these systems depend on in the face of future shocks.