Informal contacts between the secretaries of various fishing organisations in Catalonia, and participation in a meeting of the Spanish Network of Women in Fisheries, inspired a small group of women to launch a regional network, officially creating the "Associació Catalana de Dones de la Mar" in 2018.
The two FLAGs worked with the Federation of Catalan Fishing Organisations to support this proposal. The FLAGs provided technical support for the submission of the project and finance to launch the association and initial activities. The federation mobilised women from outside the two FLAG areas as well as providing office space and equipment to establish the network’s headquarters in Barcelona (conveniently situated in the middle of the Catalan coast).
In 2018, the project focused on the administrative work involved in establishing the association. The following year, the first events were held, during which there were presentations on the work of women in fisheries, aquaculture and fisheries administration. From 2020 onwards, the association became self-sustaining, thanks to membership fees, and has continued to organise training sessions for its members, focusing on preserving knowledge of declining trades, such as net-making, or training for entrepreneurship and business management. Due to COVID-19, however, delivery of much of this training has been postponed until the lifting of restrictive measures.
The network has proven to be a great tool for other purposes as well. It has helped promote local fisheries products through the organisation of fairs and has helped build social capital thanks to the contacts and collaboration it has generated across the region.
The project has resulted in the creation of an association of 58 workers in the sector, from the entire Catalan coast, including areas that do not have a FLAG. Since 2019, the association has organised and/or participated in 14 regional, national and European events, including the 6th National Congress of Women in Fisheries and the relaunch of AKTEA, the European network for women in fisheries and aquaculture.
This has helped energise women linked to fisheries and put in place the support network to foster the skills and confidence to undertake new activities. For example, the association informs and encourages women to participate in training that can help their activities (e.g., on entrepreneurship or digital communication), including those organised by the Spanish Network of Women in Fisheries and the Women’s Institute of Catalonia. It also contributes to youth participation, female empowerment and ultimately the fight against inequality at all levels.
In a sector that is overwhelmingly male dominated, the role of women in fisheries and aquaculture is overlooked and undervalued in many areas. This type of association can help provide more visibility and recognition to their work by bringing together women involved in different activities, including netters, fishers and shellfish gatherers. Such associations will have to identify common challenges if they are to offer a support network that is relevant for a critical mass of women. It is also essential to link up with existing networks in order to mutualise resources and add weight to the voice of women in decisions that affect them.
Lessons & contribution to CLLD objectives:
Lessons: Creating a partnership can be challenging, but the most difficult part is keeping it active. For this reason, motivated personnel and cooperation with other relevant territorial actors is vital. Key elements of the project’s success included collaboration with similar networks at other levels; the support of public and regional entities in creating the association; and the involvement of different local and community groups in organising events and training sessions.
Contribution to CLLD objective: (d) promoting social well-being and cultural heritage in fisheries and aquaculture areas, including fisheries, aquaculture and maritime cultural heritage;