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The role of women in blast fishing groups
By Chozin Muhammad

Pelras (1996. p. 162) said that fishing is considered to be a male activity. Only men go to fish offshore. However, in some fishing societies, women still play a significant role on fishing-related activities (Rouhomaki, 1999). Even though they do not join fishing boats offshore, women contribute to the family economy by activities such as fish processing, trading, and other family commerce.

According to Lambeth (1999), there are at least five significant female roles in the fishing society: pre-harvest activities, harvest activities, post-harvest activities, distribution and marketing, as well as social organizing activities. First, in the pre-harvest activities, women make fish-trapper baskets and nets, and mend nets.

Second, in the harvest activities, traditional women often stalk and search for fish along the reefs at low tide using simple tools like sticks and crowbars. On a bigger scale, women capture fish by putting nets out at high tide and then check them at the turn of the tide.

Third, in post- harvesting activities, women take over the fish processing with smoking, drying, salting, quick boiling, filleting, gutting, cleaning, preservation and other activities. I saw these activities in a line-fishing society on Balobaloang Island, an island in Sabalana archipelago. In a modern fish processing, usually, women are responsible for quality control and other fish handling such as refrigerating and ice-chain processing.

Fourth, with distribution and marketing activities, women often play a big role in selling fish throughout the region by house-to-house distribution, roadside stalls, or connecting to middlemen. In a tourism area, women are major players in selling crafts made from shells, mussels, and fish bones.

In the blast fishermen society, women do not play a significant role in fishing related activities. There is no need for nets in blast fishing, so there is no need for women to either make or mend them.

The pre-harvest activities for blast fishing such as preparing bombs, fixing compressors and boat engines, or fuelling boats, are all done by men. There is no need for fish processing in post-harvest activities because the captured fish are marketed directly after the catch. When the blast fishermen sell their captured fish to middlemen on the sea, the captured fish never reach the island. From the middlemen, they go directly to the fish marketing port of Paotere, on the mainland of Sulawesi.

I saw some women buying and selling fish in the fish market port of Paotere, but they were not island women. They were businesswomen from Makassar. In conclusion, the role of women in blast fishing society is far less than in a non-blast fishing society.

There is a strict job division between men and women in the blast fishing society. Almost all men's activities are related to fishing, and most women's activities are related to domestic tasks such as cooking, laundry, house cleaning, and taking care of children.

I never saw men helping women in doing domestic works. Once I went to the kitchen to wash the dishes after lunch. The woman of the house was angry. She asked me to not do that anymore. She said: "This is a woman's job, you should not do it!"

In the less wealthy families, women are more economically creative. Since the income from their husbands cannot support the family, the women earn additional money by opening small stores or selling snacks.

According to Village Database (Data Isian Potensi Kelurahan 2006), there are 160 grocery stores and vendors on the island, and most of them are operated by women. Some women make snacks and sell them throughout the village. Sometimes, they ask their daughters to go around the kampong (village) to sell snacks from baskets or big bowls on their heads. Their voice offering snacks in the early morning or evening was a special sound for me.  

2011 Chozin Muhammad

Also in this section :

Social Relationships on Balobaloang

Illegal but common: life of blast fishermen

History of blast fishing
Colonial era
After Indonesian independence
Contemporary Practices

Patron-client relationship in blast fishing groups
Life of a young juragang
Life of a sawi

Religious and cultural values of blast fishermen

The role of women in blast fishing

The relationship between blast fishermen and other fishermen




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