For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Relations Between People, Relations about Things: Gendered Investment and the Case of the Lake Victoria Fishery, Tanzania"

by Medard, Modesta (2012)


Using the example of one of the African fisheries that has been most significantly transformed from family based to commercialized—that on Lake Victoria in Tanzania—this article considers the social nexus of decision making and focuses on analyzing women’s place. It is true that women have never been more than a minority in fisheries due to traditional inheritance patterns and new market structures, both of which bypass women in questions of ownership and decision making. We look in vain for fishwives, if this means female fish producers acting with a highly visible degree of economic and social autonomy. There is no vernacular term to identify women who work with fish or those rare women who own fishing vessels. And yet the absence of derogatory representation suggests that there have been few attempts to detract from women who are active in the fishery. Should we thus be aiming at more subtlety in our analytical approaches to fishing relations on Lake Victoria? The article unveils the ways in which women’s relations with fishermen are negotiated and how agreements are reached on behalf of their families. It explores for women’s empowerment via the customary social relations and management arrangements that exist in these riparian communities. The lake fishery has a basis for development, but its potential for the kind of growth that will have returns for future generations rests on an appreciation of how fisher-wives conceive of, and respond to, the opportunities, constraints and risks of investing in this fishery.


Tanzania, Womens Work, Female Labour, Gender, Gendered Labour, Autonomy


Third World Women, Women and Work, Non-Western Societies

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