Women Empowerment and Fishery Community: Case from Fishery Community in Coastal Zone Cambodia

In 2013, 51.5 per cent of the Cambodia population is women which cover 60.9 per cent of labor force in Cambodia (Ministry of Women Affaire [MOWA], 2014). They have play important roles in taking care of their family, income generation and strongly contribute to the national economic growth. The women have to be involved with the income generation while their husband does not earn enough to support their family. They are responsible for both housework and income generation. In agriculture sector, while the men are doing land preparation, the rest of works for cultivation are the responsibility of the women. In fisheries sector, women involved in inland fisheries’ workforce at least 50 per cent and seafood market 60 to 80 per cent (FAO, 2012). They often own and manage fishing boats and may have their own fishing gear (GIZ, 2013). Without women’s under enumerated and undervalued work, men might not be fishing at all (World Fish, 2010). However, women perceive themselves to have less influence and no decision role in the family, as incited by the traditional norm in Cambodia called Chbab Srey. The norm has advised women to view their husband as superior and perceived themselves as helper in the family. With this regard, these women need to be empowered to have their voice and decision roles in their family and community. This intervention is really important to improve the living condition of women, their family and community development. USAID (2015) found that “to empower women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, they can increase crop yields by 30 percent”. World Bank (2015) also explained that “by providing the opportunity to women in public work, agriculture and other sectors, it would reduce the poverty, fuel the economic growth and mitigate the effect from financial crisis. Anyway, if the women control the resources, they will likely to increase the expenditure which is benefit to children”.


Photo by the Author

In Cambodia, some civil societies have been trying to empower women by promoting agriculture activities, capacity building, saving money, agriculture cooperative, handicraft and other income generations. The same as those civil societies, Trapeang Sanker Fishery Community which was mobilized in 2009 along the coastal zone in Kampot province has been empowering women by providing them job opportunity and income from fishing. The community benefits over 1000 households that are member and non-member of this community. Among those beneficiaries, 734 households are member of the community. According to the interview with the community committee and members, the fishery community is important to them as it provides them the rich of protein food and income from selling these resources.

Photo by the Author

World Wide Fund for Nature (2015) confirmed that “fisheries is important for the livelihoods of Cambodia’s rural poor once it accounts for about 75 per cent of Cambodia annual protein”. Council for the Development in Cambodia (2015) also confirm that “fair distribution with sustainable use of fishery resources are crucial to improve the food security and livelihoods of rural Cambodians”. For women, those resources are really important to them as they play a key role in their family. From the interview with the community members, one of the women said that fishing is important to the poor particularly the poor women who do not have any skill to earn money and there are no other resources. For the poor women, they do not have any fishing tool for fishing. They collect sea shell, shrimp and sea weed by hand. Ms. Rin Ras, head of household and poor family, said “I go to collect sea shell by my hand every day. Normally, I can get 4 kg of sea shell. Sometimes, I did not collect sea shell but I collect shrimp. I can collect shrimp about 0.5 to 1 kg per day only because I collect it by my hand. I sell most of them to my neighbors and get income about USD 2”. This kind of fishing benefits the poor women in the community since they do not need any fishing tool for fishing. It is notified that 90 per cent of fisherman who collected fisheries resources by hand are women. Generally, they can collect sea shell about six to ten kg or seaweed about 20 to 30 kg which can make about USD 2 to 4 USD per day. For those who is married, this amount of money is the big contribution to their families’ income while their husbands can only earn similar to this amount. Therefore, to conserve the natural resources namely water resources and mangrove forest in the community, it will benefit the local community particularly the poor and women in the long term. They can use those resources in the sustainable way under the management from the fishery community.



Council for the Development in Cambodia. (2015, September 13). Fisheries. Retrieved from Council for the Development of Cambodia: http://www.cdc-crdb.gov.kh/cdc/ngo_statement/fisheries.htm

FAO (2012). The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. FAO: Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/i2727e/i2727e.pdf

GIZ (2013). Gender and Fisheries & Aquaculture. Phnom Penh: GIZ.

MOWA (2014). Key Gender Statistics in Cambodia: As of January 2014. Phnom Penh: Ministry of Woman Affaire.

USAID (2015, September 13). Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. Retrieved from USAID: https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment

WWF (2015, September 13). Community Fisheries. Retrieved from WWF Cambodia: http://cambodia.panda.org/projects_and_reports/sustainable_use/community_fisheries/

World Bank (2015, September 13). Millennium Development Goals: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women by 2015. Retrieved from World Bank: http://www.worldbank.org/mdgs/gender.html

World Fish (2010). Gender and fisheries: Do women support, complement or subsidize men’s small-scale fishing activities? Phnom Penh: World Fish.


About the Author: Kesa Ly is a post master degree graduate in Climate Change from the UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands in 2014. He also held a master degree in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland in 2012 and master degree in Agronomy from the Royal Academy of Cambodia in 2006. In 2011, Kesa was selected as M-POWER Research Fellow by M-POWER and CPWF which was funded by AusAID. In 2012, Kesa was selected as ASEAN-Canada Junior Research fellow by Nanyang Technical University and University of British Columbia which was funded by IDRC. Kesa have years of experience managing research projects on food security, climate change, and hydropower and water resources for university, donor agency, international and national organization.