17 May Indonesian Women in Fisheries: Pressing for Progress in Marine Conservation and Blue Economy

The Coral Triangle Center (CTC) recently convened a 5-day women’s learning exchange and workshop for women leaders working in fisheries and marine conservation. Thirty-seven women representing Indonesia’s Women’s Network on Fisheries and Marine Conservation came to join this program. Through information sharing, knowledge exchange, and learning activities, these women fishers learned about self-development and articulated their essential roles and needs in marine conservation and business management. 

From April 22-26, 2023, women leaders representing fishers, Marine Affairs and Fisheries Agency and Ministry hailing from Lampung, Central Java, Bali, Maluku, South Papua, and DKI Jakarta province came to the CTC office in Sanur, Bali. Also joining the event were CTC’s partners from the Environment Defense Funds (EDF) and Starling Resources. Opened at the CTC office, the rest of the program took place in Nusa Penida where participants will continue to learn interesting topics and snorkeling while enjoying the beautiful corals and marine environment. 

“During this workshop, we shine a spotlight on the pivotal role of women leaders in preserving and nurturing our environment, with a special emphasis on our coastal regions and oceans. In Indonesia, women are indispensable to fishing families, providing crucial labor for family businesses and augmenting household income. They engage actively in multiple facets of the fisheries industry, especially in post-harvest and trade operations,” said Dr. Hesti Widodo, CTC Senior Program Manager and one of the workshop organizers. 

Coincided with the commemoration of Kartini Day symbolizing women’s rights in education and gender equality, Gertruda Melsina Hehanusa, the Head of BPSPL Denpasar encouraged the women that they are a critical part of the fisheries industry. “We are all modern Kartinis because we play an important role as men do in fisheries and marine”, said Ms. Hehanusa.

Building on CTC’s training and capacity program, practitioners and experts will guide the participants to learn six topics: (1) Broadening horizons, (2) Learning leadership, (3) Courses on business, (4) Learning marine conservation, (5) Sharing knowledge and experience by and for women, and (6) Capturing and documenting learning. 

Participants also expressed their excitement about what they learned, their plan, and their hopes for the program. Sharing experiences also helped the women recognize the (untapped) potential that exists in their home village. Christina Maritje Lawalata, the Head of Mahu Village shared,” I’m interested in the experience of other participants about fish product processing. In my village, we have a lot of potential with fish. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been optimized yet. I dream that one day there will be many fish products in my village, which can advance tourism and the local economy.”

Similarly, Suci Ernawati from Gedungmulyo Village Women Network added, “Before this (event),, I didn’t know about coral reefs. In this program, we’re trained in basic snorkeling and now I’m able to see what coral reefs are like. I’m also interested in the experience of other groups about cooperative formation. I hope I can implement it in my village”.

In Indonesia, women constitute around 42% or even more of the fisheries industry. Women fishers and wives of fishermen have led different economic activities and initiatives boosting the local economy and helping alleviate poverty in coastal areas. Yet, their contribution to (resources) management and policymaking is frequently ignored.

“We believe that in order to have a larger impact in the community and the environment, women have to be empowered to make active decisions and take leadership roles in managing our marine resources,” Rili Djohani, Executive Director of the Coral Triangle Center said. “Women can become our local champions and motivators who accelerate the behavioral change in the community. Their voices, along with other male fishers, need to be heard by a wider audience so that they can be passed on to the government and policymakers at higher levels,” she added.

Complementing the women fishers, Lily Apriliya Pregiwati from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) said that they are agents of change in fisheries and marine conservation. ” I hope this event will open more opportunities for us women working in the fisheries sector”, she said.

This networking event is a crucial step towards strengthening women leaders’ capacity locally and thus reinforcing the Women Leaders Forum network at the regional level. As further said by Ms. Djohani,” As the Co-Chair of the CTI’s Women Leaders Forum, CTC is putting the efforts to integrate this Indonesia’s Women Network on Fisheries and Marine Conservation into the regional-level Coral Triangle Initiative Women Leaders Forum”. 

Closing the intensive learning exchange program, the women performed the “Kecak” dance they also learned and practiced during the learning exchange program.

Writers: Olivia Sope, Adam Putra, Hesti Widodo, Silvianita Timotius
Photos: Adam Putra/CTC, Kasman/CTC

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