Women play a critical role in every link of the value chain in small-scale fisheries, although their best-known roles are in processing and marketing of fish and other fishery products. This perception of the highly gender-segregated division of labour (men fishing/women processing) has shaped the generalized approach in supporting development initiatives for small-scale fisheries. More often than not, this approach targets men as fishers, and women as processors and marketers of fishery products (Bene & Merten, 2008). However, this generalization has also made fisheries governance blind to women’s other valuable inputs to the sector. In fact, their roles can and should go beyond post-harvest and marketing. However, the lack of utilization of their additional contribution has deterred, for example, women’s participation in fisheries resource management and policy decision-making (Arenas & Lentisco, 2011).

Adequate participation of women in small-scale fisheries has been perceived as a factor that will create opportunity for improving livelihood which is of immense benefit to the household in Nigeria. The small-scale fisheries sector is gaining wider international attention, through the development of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (the SSF Guidelines), which were endorsed in 2014 has not been fully implemented in developing countries including Nigeria. Female stakeholders in the fisheries sector were, until recently, invisible in the statistics collected and provided to fisheries managers and policy-makers. In recent times, more literature has been directed to making women’s roles more visible. For example, Williams (2008) and Weeratunge and Snyder (2009) describe the diverse gendered division of labour in fishing communities, and their involvement and importance in fisheries processing and trade.

In the small-scale fisheries, women’s roles are dominant in the post-harvest sector. They process fish products: drying, salting, smoking, making fish balls or fish/shrimp sauce, etc., which they either sell to generate a supplementary income for the family, or use directly for household consumption. Despite the importance of these post-harvest roles and the need to further strengthen them, women’s involvement in fisheries is not only limited to the post-harvest sector. A literature review on the theme of women/gender and fisheries reveal that women can actually be quite active in river and inland, near-shore and subsistence fisheries. In small-scale fishing communities, women are also the main caregivers of the fishing household, responsible for food and nutrition security and, in many cases, responsible for family finances (Williams, 2010). This role should not be underestimated as it places a large burden on women, not only as processors and traders but also as mothers and caregivers for both the young and for older people by providing livelihood opportunity for the family. With this widespread characterization of women as fish processors, traders and caregivers, the approachable way of taking small scale fisheries issues into account has been by targeting women through post-harvest activities and household support.

This generalization of gender roles has resulted in the provision of processing tools and/or credit, and sometimes livelihood diversification support options (rearing livestock, weaving, etc.) to women by government of Nigeria. Such activities can be considered low-conflict, meaning that they do not question strategic gender concerns but only pragmatic concerns (Moser, 1989). They allow women to remain in the socially acceptable female domain of the household and in their “normal” roles of processor and/or marketer. Through women’s greater participation in small scale fisheries, ultimately their needs and priorities are better understood and therefore better represented. In general, women also tend to pay more attention to livelihood needs such as equitable distribution of resources and other matters related to poverty reduction (Gatke, 2008).

The role of women in small-scale fisheries also includes fostering community well-being and economic growth, increasing awareness of domestic violence, increasing attendance at school among children, and their (women’s) participation in local politics (Gatke, 2008; Dey de Pryck, 2012; SOFA, 2011). Women are also prompt to organize themselves with the purpose of improving local conditions in their communities (da Cal Seixas Barbosa and Begossi, 2004). Through increasing women’s control over natural resources, it is conceivable that there will be improvements such as increasing women’s bargaining power within the household, increasing not only their welfare but also child nutrition and health (Duflo, 2012). All these factors contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and societal well-being. However, to achieve this, development projects in the small-scale fisheries sector need to integrate gender considerations and focus on women’s involvement.


Women may access fish by themselves, by going fishing or gleaning in the intertidal zones, by obtaining fish from their husbands, other family members, other relationships, or by buying the fish directly from fishers or traders. Even when they do not fish themselves, some of the more business-minded women often finance fishing trips with the agreement that they will have first choice of the catch. Governments and development assistance donors have provided support to the perceived traditional roles of men (fishing) and women (post-harvest). As a consequence, women have been excluded from fisheries management, and they have received little support in owning actual fishing assets, securing rights to fishing grounds or accessing services such as capacity building, technical advice and microfinance.

The lack of women’s representation in decision-making increases community vulnerability to threats related to food security, nutrition and community well-being. Because women usually lack representation in fisheries associations and fisheries management bodies, they are usually excluded from decision-making, particularly for the type of decisions that directly affect the resource they depend on. With such a striking absence of women in decision-making bodies at all levels, it is easy to understand household livelihood improvement opportunities which this study is focused on.


The following are the objectives of this study:

1.  To examine the level of women participation and their role in small-scale fisheries in Nigeria.

2.  To examine the benefits of women participation in small scale fisheries to the households.

3.  To determine whether women participation in small scale fisheries will contribute to improved livelihood opportunity.


1.  What is the level of women participation and their role in small-scale fisheries in Nigeria?

2.  What are the benefits of women participation in small scale fisheries to the households?

3.  Does women participation in small scale fisheries contribute to improved livelihood opportunity?


The following are the significance of this study:

1.  Findings from this study will expose the role of women in small-scale fisheries in Nigeria and the benefits from such role to the household and its effect on the improvement of livelihood opportunities.

2.  This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the effect of personality trait on student’s academic performance, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area


This study will cover the duties of women in the sector of small scale fisheries in Nigeria.


Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.


Arenas, M.C. & Lentisco, A. 2011. Mainstreaming gender into project cycle management in the fisheries sector. RAP Publication 2011/15. Bangkok, FAO. 92 pp. Bene, C. & Merten, S. 2008. Women and fish-for-sex: transactional sex, HIV/AIDS and gender in African fisheries. World Development, 36(5): 875–899.

Da Cal Seixas Barbosa, S.R. & Begossi, A. 2004. Fisheries, gender and local changes at Itaipu Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: an individual approach. Published by Multi Ciencia. 14 pp.

Dey de Pryck, J. 2012. Good practice policies to eliminate gender inequalities in fish value chains., FAO. Rome, Italy. 97 pp. Duflo, E. 2012. Women’s empowerment and economic development. Journal of Economic Literature 2012, 50(4), 1051-1079

Gatke, P. 2008. Women’s participation in community fisheries committees in Cambodia. Roskilde University. (Master’s thesis). 24 pp.

Moser, C. 1989. Gender planning in the third world: meeting practical and strategic needs. World Development, 17(11): 1799–1825.