Women from rural coastal communities around Ireland, Spain and Norway are joining forces to ensure their contribution to rural coastal economies is recognised and further developed. The forum for this exchange of ideas and experience is a project called SeaWomen, funded through the AquaReg Programme, which promotes aquaculture exchanges between the BMW region in Ireland, Galicia in Spain and Trondelag in Norway.
The first meeting of SeaWomen took place recently in Vigo, Spain where ten women representing the three regions came together with the goals of ensuring economic sustainability, gender equality and maintaining population levels in peripheral coastal areas.
CETMAR (a public foundation set up by the Galician regional government to boost competitiveness in marine and fishing related sectors through research and innovation), leads the project, while AREAL, the Galician Association of Professional Shellfish Gatherers are the main partners. Mná na Mara, facilitated by the Marine Institute are the Irish participants and the Norwegian Fisherman's Wives Associationwill also be involved.
Mná na Mara, originally founded in the 1960s as a support group for women involved in the fishing and marine sector, established itself as the National Federation of Mná na Mara in 2003. According to Margaret Downey, Mná na Mara "Most ports throughout Ireland have their own group, but now it was felt that it was time to widen the horizon with a view to ensuring that the traditions that have sustained our coastal communities for generations are protected and passed on to the next generation as their heritage".
Mná na Mara's participation in SeaWomen is facilitated by the Marine Institute. "The benefits of networking with similar organisations in Spain and Norway are considerable for Mná na Mara" according to Pauline O'Donohoe, Marine Institute. "AREAL, for example, represent about 2,300 shellfish gatherers in Galician coastal communities, all of them self-employed and 98% of them are women. By sharing information and experience with like minded groups each organisation can learn from the challenges they have overcome and how best to sustain and expand their roles in inshore fisheries and aquaculture into the future ".
For more information on this and other AquaReg projects visit www.aquareg.com