Women play a key role in the small-scale fisheries. Over 90% of all capture fisheries workers operate in small-scale fisheries in developing countries and about half of those workers are women.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2015, FAO launched the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication in six languages. The adoption of the Guidelines this past year at the Committee on Fisheries was a great success – resulting in the first negotiated international instrument dedicated specifically to this vulnerable sector. The participatory development process of these guidelines confirmed that although gender issues should be mainstreamed across all sections of the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines, they also warranted their own stand-alone section. This is the first time that an international fisheries instrument specifically considers issues related to gender.

The Guidelines, which complement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, illustrate the natural progression to integrate social, economic, cultural and environmental issues in  practices and principles in order to achieve sustainable small-scale fisheries.

On this important day, we also wish to remember Ms. Chandrika Sharma, a tireless campaigner for the rights of small-scale fishers and a unifying figure for international civil society organizations.  When endorsing the Guidelines in June 2014, the members and observers of FAO’s Committee on Fisheries decided to dedicate the Guidelines to this remarkable woman. Coincidently, International Women’s Day marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance on 8 March 2014 of Malaysian Air flight 370, the plane on which Chandrika was travelling. We take a moment to remember Chandrika as we launch these Guidelines she helped to shape. Her strong dedication to the cause of small-scale fisheries, in particular her emphasis on protecting the vulnerable and marginalized, will remain forever  reflected in the strength of the wording on gender and other social issues in the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.

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