Economic Empowerment for Women in Mfangano Island, Kenya: Towards Addressing the “Sex for Fish” Phenomenon

Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Kirstín Flygenring


In the past two decades, the aquaculture sector has been rapidly growing because of modern technology in the industry. This has resulted in improved fishing methods, better fish processing methods, employment of people, and improved livelihoods resulting in improved livelihoods in the sector in the global spectrum. However, keenly analyzing the sector from the local fishery level, one begs to ask themselves to what extent has the aquaculture industry grown and what impact that has had on the local communities. The local fisheries have developed relatively from the type of boats used for fishing and the improved fishing equipment. Holistically assessing the fishing sector, it is inevitable to notice how women have remained at the bottom of the value chain and are considered the weaker link to the growing sector.

The fishing sector in the local communities along the shores of Lake Victoria is highly gendered, which calls for gender-transformative approaches to increase the productive involvement of women in the sector. A multi-stakeholder engagement approach that involves development agencies, CSOs, and the government will be critical in understanding the gender barriers, challenges, and opportunities that are in the sector. Gender analysis is important to identify and analyze gender power dynamics and how they impact different genders differently. Due to the power imbalance between men and women in local fisheries, understanding the underlying factors to inform the designing of an intervention. Cultural structures and norms, mostly patriarchal, are some of the enabling factors for the continuity of gender division of labour and inequalities in the industry.

The theoretical framework and the context analysis tool have been used to understand the causes, challenges, and impact of gender discrimination in the local fishery sector in Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia. The theory of change also helps to comprehensively understand the position of women in the value chain in the fisheries sector and how to use that to inform the planning and designing of interventions that promote gender equality. Using the context analysis tool will help with understanding how gender roles in the fishery sector play in differently in another context and the critical role of using gender analysis in projects.

These four key concepts of gender analysis are used to analyze and understand the situation within the local fishery industry in Kenya.

  1. Formal and informal structures, including gender norms.
  2. Gender division of labour,
  3. Access to resources and information,
  4. Decision-making

These concepts are essential to understanding the barriers women face in the fishing sector, understanding the gender role, and designing projects that provide options for improved involvement of women in the fishing value chain. In responding to the gender inequalities in fisheries, it is important to have gender-specific outcomes and goals in the intervention design. The human rights-based approach and the community participatory approach will give context to the intervention, the human rights violated due to the gender power play, and the people at the centre designing the project. This document provides the various stages of project planning and design, data collection, formulation of interventions, and monitoring and evaluation of the project, which will be used throughout the project cycle.