Short film competition highlights women in seafood

Women from Spain, India, and Peru have won the top three prizes in the International Association for Women in the Seafood Industry’s (WSI) annual short film competition, run for the third time this year.

The competition brief asked women to document their observations and experiences in the industry, and offered a cash prize of EUR 1,000 (USD 1,108) for the winner and EUR 500 (USD 554) for two runners up. 

“We hoped to reach women right across the seafood sector and to build on the success of the previous two years,” WSI founder Marie Christine Monfort told SeafoodSource.

“We were delighted to receive 32 entries from 14 countries, which is an 88 percent increase on last year. The films showed powerful stories of women fighting against an adverse environment and overcoming prejudice, beautiful portraits of resilient, hardworking, proud women, and outstanding narratives of solidarity and empowerment. All the films evidence the indisputable contribution that women make to every segment of the industry and there were some eye opening moments that moved us, even as hardened veteran seafood professionals,” she said. 

Monfort explained that she formed WSI to raise awareness of gender issues, highlight the important contribution of women to the seafood industry, and promote professional equality between men and women. It has a particular interest in promoting young female professionals, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

“One seafood worker in two is a woman; they are essential contributors to the industry, but many remain invisible, and the competition helps to give them a voice and inspire others,” Monfort said.

First prize went to the Arousa Sea Women’s Association in Galicia, Spain, whose film portrayed the diverse roles played by its members in the fish markets, in processing, mending nets and on fishing boats. In particular, it highlighted the backbreaking job of those who seed and gather shellfish, and these women were especially delighted to have their work recognised. They explained that joining an Association had helped them to develop a sense of pride in their work, which in the past had been viewed by many, as less skilled and important than careers in other sectors of the industry.

Second prize winners, the women oyster farmers in Wadatar, India, spoke of the difficulties they experienced in getting involved in a project to grow oysters in a creek near their homes, in the light of opposition and apathy from the community. 

“People laughed at us, said it would not work, and that we should continue collecting wild oysters, but we were only earning a dollar or two per month doing this. At first, we thought it was not for us, then a few of us decided to treat it as a game and see where the process led,” said the women’s leader Kasturi Dhoki.

By building bamboo frames to suspend ropes threaded with empty shells, the women were able to collect oyster spat and grow a respectable crop of oysters. They shuck and sell these in the market or from street-side stalls. 

Their initial investment of 85 dollars quickly brought in an 8-fold return, and the women are now promoting aquaculture in other villages to replicate their success. They have also become major contributors to the household income and are gaining grudging respect from their menfolk.

Marisol Churacutipa, from Truchas Arapa – a trout farm and processing unit run by women on Lake Arapa in Peru – told SeafoodSource that her co-workers were all delighted to gain third prize.

“We are so happy and excited about this. We want to demonstrate that the women of the Puno-Peru Region – the mothers, friends, sisters, wives, fisherwomen, businesswomen, managers, directors and workers – can become stronger together through aquaculture, and help to strengthen and develop local communities and our country,” said Churacutipa.

The women formed the project as a tentative commercial venture, and add value to their trout by mixing astaxanthin into the feed, which they extract from squat lobsters, a byproduct of the local fishery. This gives the trout flesh a vivid colour and attracts a high market value. 

The international panel of seven judges had a difficult task picking just three winners, and requested special mentions for films from Senegal, Mexico, Peru and Spain. 

“The competition gave me some wonderful moments, navigating through the experiences of positive, tough and pro-active women from all over the world. There are many examples that should be shared, serving as models for engaging women in pro-active decisions and sustainable practices toward a better world,” said Professor Alpina Begossi from Ecomar/Unisanta, in Brazil.

The competition received support from the French Development Agency (AFD) and the International Association for Fish Inspectors, with MATIS in Iceland taking care of logistics and technical aspects.  

“We are happy to announce the 2020 competition and look forward to receiving wonderful new testimonies from all over the world, making visible the invisible contribution of women to the seafood industry,” Monfort said. 

All the films can be seen here.

Photo courtesy of the International Association for Women in the Seafood Industry


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