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

Full Solution
Gender mainstreaming in Philippines MPA management
Barbara Clabots
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.
Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
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 In some areas, such as Caticugan, fishermen remain resistant to including women in MPA management due to outdated and unequal gender stereotypes.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.
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Gender mainstreaming
Protected and conserved areas governance
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Siquijor, Central Visayas, Philippines
Southeast Asia
Summary of the process
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.
Building Blocks
Equitable inclusion of women in Marine Protected Area management
In co-governance of MPAs, defining who participates from the community will either limit or enable long-term success. Women and men have varying roles, priorities, needs and knowledge surrounding coastal resource management and will, therefore, contribute different ideas to and gain different benefits from MPA management. People of all genders, regardless of whether they derive direct income from fishing or not, should be equally included in capacity building and management opportunities for MPAs to fully capture community needs and priorities and foster widespread community support.
Enabling factors
The existence of a community that intends to monitor and enforce fishing restrictions of an MPA is integral to success. Women and men in their varying roles can help to spread information about and enforce policies and will help reach a broader community. Additionally, support from donor organizations that value the inclusion of women and understand the local gender dynamics can help foster a shift of gender stereotypes and ensure women and men are included equally.
Lesson learned
Some communities in the Philippines have had MPAs since the 1970's, and many of these were established with only male fishermen. This means that there are long-held stereotypes and local traditions that keep women from participating. In the case of Caticugan, these stereotypes created major barriers to women’s formal participation in MPA management, which limited their income and empowerment opportunities. Conversely, women in Maite and Bino-ongan were present and oftentimes led initiatives and management of MPAs, leading to new income-generating opportunities and effective preservation of ecosystem resources. As MPAs continue to be supported by global NGOs and paid for with overseas aid, evaluation frameworks used must integrate gender equality in order to fully assess the current gaps in women's participation. If a funding plan and evaluation framework does not include gender equality, then women whose lives will be impacted are less likely to support management.
Non-consumptive income opportunities from a Marine Protected Area
In Siquijor, communities who accept responsibility for monitoring an MPA receive income from tourism dollars, charging a fee to snorkel, scuba dive, and take photos or videos within the MPA. Another income stream is from development projects by the local natural resources agency. For example, the community receives fingerlings and bamboo to make fish cages for small aquaculture projects and can then sell the fish when they have reached market size. Providing income opportunities outside of overfishing and unsustainable marine resource use ensures that communities that are dependent on marine resources will be able to continue maintaining their livelihoods while conserving the ecosystem.
Enabling factors
There must be tourists coming to the area and/or sustainable development projects that do not decrease water quality or remove resources from the MPA.
Lesson learned
Some communities that were interviewed are receiving more tourists to their MPAs because they have put colorful signs along the roads to direct visitors to their beach or advertised in hotels and on boats visited by tourists. The communities were interested in developing a tourist map to highlight a specific fish or coral species in each MPA to encourage visitors to drive around the entire island and visit each beach to better distribute tourism dollars around the island.
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.
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.
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Barbara Clabots
Gender mainstreaming in Philippines MPA management
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.
Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Barbara Clabots
Clabots Consulting
Michelle Baird
Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation