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Fisheries Research and Development in the Mekong Region
Volume 14, No.3, December 2008

Promoting gender issues at the Fisheries Department in Thailand

By Napaporn Sriputinibondh*

Thailand's Department of Fisheries has been awarded as an outstanding government agency in gender equity promotion. Director-General Dr Somying Piumsombun received the award at a ceremony presided over by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej at the Royal Thai Navy Conference Room in Bangkok in March. The following article looks at government efforts to promote gender issues in Thailand over the past decade.

Gender is prominently featured in the Thai Constitution of 1997, also known as the "People's Charter." Articles 30 and 80 clearly describe the equal status of men and women, and the roles to be played by government agencies in promoting gender issues. In implementing the constitutional provisions, the Office of Women's Affairs and Family Development under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security submitted a proposal endorsed by the cabinet in 2001. The Civil Service Commission subsequently translated the constitutional provision into a programme involving all civil service agencies in promoting gender issues. As a result, government departments appointed chief and deputy chief gender equality officers. At the same time, departmental bureaux and divisions appointed gender focal points to coordinate gender issues and formulate a Master Plan on Gender Equality Promotion.

To comply with government policy, the Thai Department of Fisheries has integrated gender issues into its mission, targeting the promotion of such issues to service beneficiaries through work plans and projects as well as administrative and service activities. While a core strategy aims to promote gender issues among target beneficiaries, a subsidiary strategy targets officials within the department where such issues are integrated into the way they work.

'In fisheries in Thailand, women work alongside men, notably in preserving and marketing fish'

In fisheries in Thailand, women work alongside men, notably in preserving and marketing fish. They also sometimes accompany men fishing. Among mechanisms developed and opportunities created for female economic participation, a Fisheries Extension Project has adopted an initiative of HRH Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn to support school lunches with animal protein from fish from school ponds. An "organic aquaculture" project has also been promoted as part of a major government policy to shift farming away from the heavy dependence on chemicals and fertilizers to organic inputs that are locally available. The project promotes the application of local wisdom and the Sufficiency Economy, a development philosophy graciously crafted by His Majesty the King.

Rehabilitation of small-scale fisheries has been undertaken in the tsunami-affected areas in six southern provinces with assistance in aquaculture, replacing gear and repairing piers and processing plants. The participation of women in these activities was highly visible, especially in areas such as processing and farm accounting. In a separate project with the European Union, the government introduced co-management practices to fisheries and coastal communities. The Coastal Habitats and Resources Management Project featured active participation of all stakeholders, especially women and youths. Under the co-management mechanisms, all stakeholders could bring with them their skills and talents to contribute to planning, implementing, monitoring, and learning from the joint activities with a keen sense of participation. The leadership provided by women was highly visible in many project areas.

Gender activities with MRC
With the Fisheries Programme of the MRC, the Department of Fisheries has also coordinated the implementation of fisheries activities highlighting the participation of women. The projects under this programme have included activities under the programme's Fisheries Ecology, Valuation and Mitigation Component such as surveying deep pools, recording fish catches and studying fish markets. Activities under the Fisheries Management and Governance Component have ranged from establishing conservation areas and training schoolchildren to studying the efficiency of fishing gear. Under the programme's Aquaculture of Indigenous Mekong Fish Species Component, activities have included breeding and propagation, economic and biological research, aquaculture extension and capacity building for fish farmers.

Sex of fish farmers and others registered with Department of Fisheries

Activity Female
No record
1. Hatchery and Nursing
26 73 1
2. Fish Farming
31 66 3
3. Supplementary Aquatic Food Factories
12 31 57
4. Fish Product Factor Traders
35 57 8
5. Middlemen
36 57 7
6. Primary Fish Processing (owners)
40 40 23
7. Cold Storage Facilities (owners)
16 32 52
8. Traditional Fish Processing (owners)
56 39 5
9. Fish Processing Factories
10 26 64
10. Importers and Exporter
16 44 39
11. Ornamental Fish
35 54 11


Training, Study Tours and Seminars in 2007

  Female Officers Male Officers Total
Number % Number % Number
Inside Department
981 44 1,243 56 2,224
Outside Department
75 57 57 43 132
1,056 45 1,300 55 2,356

Many fisheries development projects being implemented in the lower Songkhram River Basin in northeastern Thailand have offered great opportunities for research on gender issues. Like elsewhere in Thailand, women here are active in participating in all livelihood activities. However, with the large number of projects being implemented, research can be easier. To implement its gender equality promotion program, the department has established a gender database where information on officials and beneficiaries is generated, catalogued, and maintained.
Outstanding government agency
Activities formulated have included capacity building among officials, awareness and recognition of gender's role and harmonious working conditions where men and women share responsibilities. The department has also established a gender committee to oversee equity in employment and deployment of officials in work assignments. The necessary budget for implementing these activities has been earmarked.

Monitoring and evaluation of gender-related projects revealed that information on gender is needed to prepare project work plans to satisfy the needs of the whole community. Monitoring and evaluation has also shown that the number of women participating in training and implementation of aquaculture and aquatic resource conservation projects has been increasing and that a satisfactory gender balance has been achieved.

* Ms Napaporn Sriputinibondh is Thailand's National Coordinator in the Network for Promoting Gender in Fisheries Development in the Lower Mekong Basin. Between 2003 and 2004, she served as the network's regional coordinator



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