Working from the Inside Out: How the Fish Innovation Lab Helps Partners Integrate Gender in Their Activities
As part of its crosscutting theme on mainstreaming gender equity and youth inclusion, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish develops resources, trainings, tools and communications to assist its partners in advancing gender-responsive aquaculture and fisheries development. In October 2020, the Fish Innovation Lab’s gender and youth equity specialists, Kathleen Ragsdale and Mary Read-Wahidi, administered a survey called the Gender Responsive Aquaculture/Fisheries Development Assessment (GRADA-FIL) to Fish Innovation Lab teams to measure gender inclusion in the lab’s research portfolio. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi have synthesized the results of the survey in a four-part series of briefs.
“The GRADA-FIL helps provide a snapshot of how Fish Innovation Lab teams are addressing common gender barriers in aquaculture and fisheries, as well as how they are incorporating gender-responsive approaches in their research activities and within their teams,” said Ragsdale. “This information is critical to help us identify ways we can provide support to teams and help them develop their capacity in this area.”
The first brief in the series highlights findings based on the responses of the Fish Innovation Lab’s one-year Quick Start projects, which were implemented from 2019-2020. The second, third and fourth briefs highlight findings from current Fish Innovation Lab subawardees, who just received funding and were starting to plan their activities when the survey was administered in October 2020. This timing meant the respondents were well-positioned to reflect on barriers they might encounter as they implemented their work and how they planned to incorporate gender-responsive research activities into their research plans.
Successes and Challenges from One-Year Quick Start Activities
The first brief highlights successes and challenges shared by the Fish Innovation Lab’s one-year Quick Start projects. Common themes include successes in collecting gender-disaggregated data, recruiting women to participate in projects, highlighting gender issues in reports and policy recommendations, and increasing women’s access to resources and trainings. However, some Quick Start projects also reported challenges in these same areas. These results suggest that the Quick Start respondents may be able to share first-hand experiences with other Fish Innovation Lab teams to help them navigate common challenges in implementing gender-responsive aquaculture and fisheries activities.
Identifying Common Gender Barriers
The second brief focuses on Fish Innovation Lab teams’ responses to GRADA-FIL questions about common gender barriers that may be at play at research sites where their activities are being conducted. Respondents reported several gender barriers operating where they conduct research on aquaculture and fisheries value chains, including that women lack access to the same decision-making power as men, women have less involvement in governance and/or comanagement than men, and women have fewer economic and training opportunities than men.
The results also suggest a potential need for increased awareness of common gender barriers occurring in aquaculture and fisheries sectors. For example, more than 50% of respondents reported that they did not know if women may be exploited across aquaculture and fisheries value chains, such as through “sex for fish” exchanges controlled by male fishers and/or fish brokers, or if women experience more postharvest losses or lower yields from aquaculture and fisheries production as compared to men in their research sites.
“The results from this portion of the GRADA-FIL help us get a more complete picture of how teams are thinking about gender barriers in their activities,” said Read-Wahidi. “Our findings suggest that many of the teams are aware of inequities between women and men throughout the aquaculture and fisheries value chains, but there are still specific gender issues that they have not considered or come across in their work. That helps us map out key areas to focus on when working with the teams to ensure their activities are truly gender responsive.”
Implementing Gender-Responsive Research Activities
Gender-responsive research activities are the focus of the third GRADA-FIL brief. Results highlight responses to questions related to 1) gender-responsive research activities in training and capacity development, 2) interventions and other programs and 3) development/distribution of resources, inputs or technologies. Results indicate that several Fish Innovation Lab teams seek to include a wide range of gender-responsive research activities, including recruiting equal numbers of male and female participants, taking into account how men’s and women’s different roles across aquaculture and fisheries value chains may influence their needs and incorporating ways to mitigate limitations to women’s participation in activities.
These results suggest that the Fish Innovation Lab’s approach of having each project consider gender equity as a crosscutting theme from the beginning is an effective means of ensuring that they strive to be more gender responsive in their research activities. The results also offer a “roadmap” for the Fish Innovation Lab to assist teams in achieving their gender-responsive goals and developing additional gender-responsive strategies to help increase the impact and sustainability of their projects.
Gender Integration Among Research Teams
In the fourth brief, Read-Wahidi and Ragsdale turn the mirror inward to examine gender integration within Fish Innovation Lab research teams. While most respondents reported that their teams aim to recruit both male and female staff members and promote women into leadership positions, fewer respondents — though still more than half — reported that their teams address more specific gender constraints, such as considering additional needs and responsibilities of female team members or how cultural norms and rules can influence behavior within teams. Although less than half of respondents had ever received training on gender-specific topics prior to the onset of their Fish Innovation Lab-funded activities, a majority of respondents reported that their teams could benefit from such training.
These results highlight opportunities for training and outreach at the team level, including the need for an accessible and comprehensive set of training resources on both gender-responsive aquaculture and fisheries development that promotes impact and sustainability and closing gender gaps within research teams. As the Fish Innovation Lab’s work progresses, these findings suggest key entry points and opportunities for the lab’s management entity to work directly with researchers to help achieve project-specific, gender-responsive goals.
Learning from the GRADA-FIL Results
The results of the GRADA-FIL survey will help inform how the Fish Innovation Lab and its gender and youth equity specialists support partners in advancing gender-responsive aquaculture and fisheries activities.
“From developing trainings and resources for research teams to helping scientists and their partners think through how gender relations may affect or be affected by their activities, the Fish Innovation Lab management entity has an important role to play in helping our teams work with women and men to make aquaculture and fisheries systems more equitable,” said Ragsdale.
To learn more about Fish Innovation Lab activities related to gender equity, visit the lab’s Gender Equality page.
Kathleen Ragsdale is the Fish Innovation Lab’s gender and youth equity specialist and a research professor at the Social Science Research Center of Mississippi State University. Mary Read-Wahidi is the Fish Innovation Lab co-specialist on gender and youth equity and an assistant research professor at the Social Science Research Center. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi are also researchers on two Fish Innovation Lab projects in Zambia.