NAIROBI – The fishing industry in Africa is blind to gender. Women hardly feature as players in fishing but are confined to the secondary roles of processing and marketing fish products. Selma Okumu from Siaya County in the southwest part of Kenya believes the narrative needs to change because women play a significant role in the fishing industry that goes unnoticed.

Inter Press Service (IPS): You are attending the Sustainable Blue Economy conference, what are you expecting?

Selma Okumu (SO): I have come to learn and I have attended an interesting the session on the fisheries subsidies. I learnt that about the purpose of subsidies in the fishing industry but the overview picture I got from the discussions what that when we talk about fisheries we talk about men. My question is, what about women? Wherever fishing is being done you, see women cleaning the fish but are not involved in the main part of fishing. That is not right. Women are important to fishing; they sell fish and provide the food but are not recognised.

IPS: What are the issues and concerns for you in Kenya about the fisheries industry?

SO: The major place for fisheries in Kenya is Lake Victoria and the major issue there is hyacinth. You find that the men involved in the fisheries are not getting a good catch because of this weed. If we are talking about subsidies for fisheries, we should to look into the issue of the hyacinth. Can these subsidies help he cleanup of this week from Lake Victoria because this weed because it affects the whole fishing industry from the fishermen to us who buy and sell the fish.

IPS: Do you do any fishing yourself?

SO: No but I live off fishing. I sell fish. I buy from fishermen and sell to other people in my county. This is my source of income. I have been doing this since 2001.

IPS: What has business been like?

SO: When I started my fishing marketing, business was good but now it has gone down. Back in 2001, I could make 9 dollars (1000 KES) in a day but now I only make 4 dollars (KES 400). The problem is the hyacinth. The fishermen are not able to get more fish and sometimes the boats cannot come to the bay.  We need to remove this weed before we are out of business.