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Role of women in marine and coastal biodiversity governance in South Africa

Philile Mbatha

One Ocean Hub, University of Strathclyde, UK

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  • blue economy,
  • marine spatial planning,
  • marine ecosystems,
  • human rights,
  • Gender Rights,
  • customary norms
Target Group
  • Artists,
  • Policy makers,
  • Researchers,
  • Youth
  • English
Location map

The presentation takes a look at issues of equity and equality in marine biodiversity governance, by paying attention to how women are considered in these processes in the East Coast of South Africa.

Published on September 27 2023, this presentation highlights that, similarly to many parts of the world, coastal areas in South Africa tend to be a site for contestation amongst powerful actors for resources, blue and green economy activities including aquaculture, marine protected areas, mining, marine transport, offshore oil and gas mining and tourism activities. These blue economy activities are contemporary ideas and activities that are in conflict with long-existing rural coastal community livelihoods. Women play significant roles as food producers and caregivers, on the Western Indian Ocean coast, women combine harvesting marine resources with agriculture therefore contributing largely to food security. However, when it comes to accessing benefits from marine and coastal biodiversity, evidence suggests that women and girls in various parts of the global South are rarely the key beneficiaries of processes and practices at the local level. This includes discourse and practices that aim to promote including indigenous knowledge and local voices as the voices of men tend to dominate because of the existing patriarchal norms that place men at the forefront of decision making regarding conservation at the local level. 

The presentation highlights that there is a significant difference between women being given rights and their ability to access those rights based on local contexts. Therefore efforts that seek to recognise women’s rights need to consider contextual issues that marginalise the voices of women and girls. This calls for a better alignment of national, international and local strategies.