Women Empowerment, Fisheries and Sustainable Development in Virunga

The fisheries of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park make a substantial contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth within Eastern DRC. Over 50.000 people are supported by the fisheries; it creates jobs, provides an important supply of affordable protein to the Kivu’s, and makes a significant contribution to food security in the Congo.

Lake Edward is particularly important for the empowerment and emancipation of women in the region. Fishing has become a way of life and the primary occupations of Lake Edward’s communities that depend on it for their livelihood and subsistence. Most of the fish from the Lake is processed (smoked of salted) by women. Women traders are working together, mobilizing themselves and promoting women’s economic empowerment in Virunga’s fishing communities. Most of the fish from Lake Edward is sold by women; the marketing of this fish provides most women their only source of income.

Fishing activities in Virunga  contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth at all levels: individual, household, community, and even at local and national government level increasing government revenues and regional trade.

Fisheries are essential to the economic well-being of millions of rural people in the developing world. Capture fisheries and aquaculture provide direct employment for some 200 million people, the vast majority of whom work in the traditional, small-scale sector, which accounts for about 70% of fisheries production.

Fish and other aquatic species are also vital to food security. They provide almost 30% of the animal protein consumed in Asia and the Pacific, and more than 20% in low-income food-deficit countries. (Source)

Women play a crucial and unrecognized role in the sustainable development of Eastern Congo and the protection of Lake Edward’s resources.

Drilling for oil in Virunga won’t help these women increase their family’s meager income, bring their children to school and enhance their social status and economic power, like fisheries do.

No, oil, as so many other conflictive natural resources, has proven fatal for the emancipation and safety of women in the world. For instance, Ghana’s oil and gas industry has “depressing repercussion on the ability of women in particular, to access health care, accommodation, employment and to live a successful marriage life in the region.” (Source) Single mothers are forced to leave their houses because of increased rents, others are becoming “May-December” oil brides, hoping for a better life, before they are left behind with no financial support and stigmatized for the rest of their lifes.

Congolese women don’t need to be reminded about what natural resource exploitation has brought in terms of abuses and sexual violence in the Kivu’s.

Don’t let these women be the next victim of oil exploration in Virunga.

Help us Protect their Future, their Lake, their Life.