A recent study has found that all of the women working in the coastal belt fisheries are earning lower wages than their male counterparts.
They also lack empowerment, with very low participation in decision-making processes even at home.
The finding on the gender pay gap - the average difference between remunerations for men and women who are working, usually found to favour men - jars with a UN report earlier this year, which said that Bangladesh had the lowest such gap in the world.
In fact, it said the gap in Bangladesh extended the other way, as Bangladesh was said to be the only country in the world, where the factor-weighted hourly wage gender pay gap is positive, i.e. in favour of women.
The COAST Trust, a national NGO, conducted the special study by collecting data from 1,200 fisher families in six unions under four Upazilas of 3 coastal districts: Cox's Bazar, Bhola, and Bagerhat.
The study finding was disclosed at a programme organised by the Coast trust at CIRDAP Auditorium in the city on Sunday,
Deputy Executive Director of the Coast Trust Sanat Kumar Bhowmik moderated the event while Mustafa Kamal Akanda, director of the organization delivered a welcome speech and Md. Mujibul Haque Munir, joint director, presented the keynote paper.
Md. Mujibul Haque Munir said that all the women workers involved in fish processing are getting 25% lower wages than male workers. Around 31% of women of fishing families do not have an opinion on the purchase of family property, and 56% of women members do not have a say on the general expenditure of the family.
Only 2% of women members of these fisher families have directly contacted the concerned Union Parishad for any special need and 82% of women have never participated in any arbitration or any other decision-making process of the society.
Moreover, 65% of female members of the fisher families have been victims of some form of violence.
Md. Israil Pandit, President of Bangladesh Small-scale Fishermen Shomity said that if the government's open water bodies can be leased to the women fishers, their participation and empowerment can be ensured. Government usually distributes lands to farmers of the riverine areas, not to the fishermen.
"We should lobby for this, for getting the land reclaimed in the Bay of Bengal for use by fishermen," he said.
The Association for Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB) representative, Ms. Anamika told that microfinance goes to the fisherwomen but they have no right to spend the money. This money should be spent by them,she said.
Trade Union Leader Saleha Shantana Islam said that the fishermen should have the formal appointment letters so that after any death they can be identified by the boat owners they were under.
Mir Mohammad Ali, Lecturer, Fisheries Faculty of Sher-E-Bangla Agricultural University, emphasized the alternative income-generating activities of the fishermen so that they can survive their livelihood during the seasonal ban periods introduced by the government to boost and secure the future of fishing. The Executive Director of UDAYAN Bangladesh Ashaduzzaman Sheik said that women fishers' income goes to their husbands and this is one of the causes behind their disempowerment.
The Executive Director of Dwip Unnyan Sangstha said that we should call them fishermen, not as matshajibi. He also told that the involvement of women fishers should be increased in the fisheries sector for their empowerment.
The representative of Director General of the Department of Fisheries Shilpi Dey, District Fisheries Officer (Reserved) added that if we implement the women's policy that has been developed by the government in 2011 then it is easier to ensure the empowerment of the women especially the fisher women.
She urged for capacity development of the fisher women through training for alternative income-generating activities.
A number of recommendations were made at the seminar, namely: to formulate special policies to identify the contribution of women in the fisheries sector, to involve women members of fishing families in economic activities, to ensure women's participation in various fisheries programs, and to implement labor policies for fishermen and to issue ID card for women fishers.
Aminur Rasul Babul, A. S. M Badrul Alam, Ferdous Ara Rumee, Shahidul Alam Faruk, H.M.Hasan Al Mamun, Tasnuba Jaman, Shamim Ara also spoke in the event.