Gender Dimensions of Community-Based Management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Siquijor, Philippines

Barbara Clabots
Published: 20 February 2017
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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Through interviews and focus group discussions with women and men in communities, this solution identified gender dimensions of MPA management in the villages of Maite, Bino-ongan, and Caticugan in Siquijor, Philippines. This helped to identify opportunities for gender mainstreaming in MPAs; inform organizations and agencies involved in coastal area funding and management of best practices, and empower women and recognize them for their important roles in MPA management.


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Gender mainstreaming
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas


Siquijor, Central Visayas, Philippines


A primary challenge of MPAs in the Philippines is poaching and in many areas women are frequent poachers. This poaching undermines the goals of the MPAs that have been primarily agreed upon by fishermen. The approaches used in this analysis help to identify why this poaching happens and ways to address community needs through alternative income generation or other strategies. In some areas, such as Caticugan, fishermen remain resistant to including women in MPA management due to outdated and unequal gender stereotypes. Using the findings from this analysis, local NGOs and international development agencies can begin to shift perceptions of gender stereotypes through context-specific interventions to highlight the important role women play and the potential they have to contribute to MPA management.


The beneficiaries are primarily the immediate community of the MPA. As more women were included in an MPA, they personally experienced social and economic empowerment.

How do the building blocks interact?

As men involved in fishing are often out to sea for long periods and are not always available or willing to participate in MPA management, women’s management is crucial to maintaining and sustaining MPAs. Women are able to monitor the MPA while men are out fishing and can earn income through tourism and sale of items if income-generating opportunities are fostered in MPAs. This will not only help highlight the important and extensive roles women hold in the management of natural resources but will also empower them socially and economically, helping to change perceptions of gender on a local level.


The interviews and focus groups revealed numerous gender issues and opportunities in MPA management in the Philippines that provide several insights for MPA management policies to be more gender-responsive: (1) Male-dominated MPA management is not representative of the key roles women hold in MPAs. The success of MPA management is dependent on community cooperation. (2) As women gain access to information, resources, and power, they can suffer from an initial increase in domestic violence. Increasing women’s empowerment should be accompanied by supporting the social acceptance of changing gender roles. (3) There are often no mechanisms to ensure males do not usurp benefits of female-run MPAs. Local fishermen benefit from increased catch even if they do not participate in MPA management. Mechanisms need to be established to ensure women’s time and resources are not exploited. (4) Monitoring and evaluations often do not measure the impact of MPAs on women. There is a need for gender-sensitive MPA evaluation metrics to promote effective planning and implementation in MPA management. (5) MPA management objectives are not explicitly related to women’s needs and objectives limit the natural resources available to women. Considering the needs and priorities of women and men in MPA establishment and management is crucial to community cooperation and MPA long-term success.


Barbara Clabots
Women in Maite and Bino-ongan claim they are only “simple housewives,” a common self-perception of Filipinas. However, the interviews and focus groups conducted through this analysis reveal that women in these communities are much more than their modest claims. In Maite, women’s social networks strengthened the MPA, organized a way to generate income while still preserving the marine ecosystem and spread information about MPA policies to build community support. Perhaps best stated by the Maite MPA President: “Women are powerful nowadays, we can make an organization without men! We can do things done by men!” Maite women supported and educated Bino-ongan women about MPA monitoring, enforcement and income producing opportunities through sustainable dive tourism. A woman from Bino-ongan reflected on the motivation from Maite women, “They shared their knowledge in making the sanctuary…they in Maite helped us.” These personal networks—driven and maintained by women—are crucial to the long-term success of MPAs. Indeed, these stories provide an insight into the connections women build and the power they hold to be active and effective agents of change in MPA management.

Contributed by

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Barbara Clabots University of Washington

Other contributors

Clabots Consulting
Michelle Baird
Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation