Unlocking Potential: Empowering Women in Indonesian Coastal Communities


Globally, fisheries and aquaculture contribute to the income of around 800 million people. But overfishing is putting increasing pressure on local fish populations and marine biodiversity, while threatening the livelihoods of many.

Fish and seafood are a critical part of the world’s diet. It provides around 3.2 billion people with almost 20 per cent of their average intake of animal protein.

The 2020 SDG target is to effectively regulate harvesting, end overfishing and to implement science-based management plans, so fish stocks can be restored as quickly as possible. Also, SDG 5 calls for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, which is particularly relevant to the fisheries sector. Worldwide, only 11 per cent of those working in the industry are women.

Led by Rare, and supported by KIT Royal Tropical Institute, this project aims to improve the livelihoods of at least 5,000 fishing households across 20 communities in Indonesia’s Southeast Sulawesi province.

A Sea of Change: Improving coastal communities in Indonesia

This project is designed to strengthen the social and economic resilience of men and women participating in fishing activities, and the ecological resilience of fishing areas. In particular, it focuses on increasing gender equity within fisheries. This means giving visibility to women’s roles in fisheries, and empowering women to have a greater voice in community-based fisheries management and decision-making. Sea of Change is embedded in Fish Forever, Rare’s global programme. Fish Forever is a community-led solution to revitalize coastal marine habitats and secure livelihoods of fisher households and communities. It covers the Philippines, Indonesia, Mozambique, Brazil and the MesoAmerican Reef.

Coastal fisheries: What they mean to Indonesian livelihoods

Indonesia’s coral reefs, and the coastal fisheries they support, are an incredible and essential natural asset and a key part of the nation’s cultural heritage. Over 80 per cent of Indonesia’s 2.4 million fishers are small-scale, using small boats and simple gear to fish in nearshore areas for both food and income. Coastal fisheries account for over half of Indonesia’s total wild fish production. And over half of Indonesians’ primary source of protein comes from fish and seafood.

However, Indonesia’s coastal fisheries are severely threatened by unsustainable fishing practices and poor enforcement and governance. Degradation of essential fish habitat and external stressors such as climate change are also a major challenge.

The role of women in Indonesian fisheries

Women in Indonesian fishing communities play a crucial role in processing and selling fish and running community enterprises. But their contributions are undervalued, unaccounted for, and often marginalized. The project aims to increase the visibility of women’s contributions and enhance gender equity in coastal fishing communities. The overall aim is to support a shift in Indonesia’s small-scale fishing communities to be more resilient, empowered and sustainable.

A new model for the region

This project aims to develop community-based management, financial inclusion, value chain opportunities, while improving gender-equity across targeted fishing communities. It will serve as a model for the region in effectively connecting poverty alleviation with community-based natural resource management and linking gender equity to improved environmental outcomes.

The work has the following objectives:

  • Delivering community-based management for coastal fisheries. For example, by forming fishery management bodies that are participatory, inclusive, equitable, accountable and transparent. It also entails designing managed access fishing areas based on the needs of both men and women.
  • Extending financial inclusion. For example, by promoting access to and use of financial services and extending the financial planning horizons and opportunities for fisher households and small businesses.
  • Strengthening the rural economy. For example, identifying opportunities to improve value chains, reduce post-harvest losses and improve household, micro and small business management.
  • Strengthening gender equity

    As a cross-cutting theme, Rare and KIT will strengthen gender equity in natural resource management and decision-making, including recognizing women for their critical role in ensuring the sustainability and economic prosperity of Indonesia’s coastal fisheries.

    KIT will apply its expertise through:

  • Gender Strategy – KIT will help Rare define its gender strategy for its small-scale fisheries management program in Indonesia and the Fish Forever program. This includes guiding Rare and its local partners on how to ensure that gender-equitable outcomes are achieved in a meaningful, effective and feasible manner. This includes support in designing fish enterprise development and financial services options that strengthen the role of women.
  • Capacity development and training – KIT will develop Rare’s staff and partners capacity for the implementation of the gender strategy. This will include a tailored coaching process over the project period along with the use of specific tools, training and approaches; and
  • Learning and replication – KIT will set up a working group for action learning to harvest lessons learned for a gender-responsive approach to fisheries management; action learning will include annual reflection workshops, where KIT will play a key role in facilitating learning across the different interventions and how they support the overall contribution towards the project goals. KIT will also elicit the lessons learned to document the efficacy of project interventions with the aim of replicating them in other Rare project sites in Indonesia and throughout its global program.