Women as the Driver for the Protection of Fishing Crews

Women are equal partners of men who have a role in national development and improvement of family welfare. The results of the Philippine SAFE Seas Project study on “The Effect of Forced Labor and Trafficking of Fishing Crews on Female Relatives” also show that women of the fishing crews have an important role in making decisions related to household finances including in proposing loan negotiations.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to commemorate the struggle of women around the world in promoting peace, justice, equality, and development.

Stefi Hiborang is the wife of a fishing crew from Lembeh Island, North Sulawesi. As a fishing crew’s wife, Stefi is accustomed to being abandoned by her husband because of the demands of being a fishing crew who has to go to sea for months. Stefi knows that fishing crews’ work is heavy, dangerous and that the fulfillment of workers’ rights is often neglected. As a modern woman, Stefi believes that she has an important role to play to fight for the welfare of her family and also other fishing crews’ wives who have the same fate as her.

Stefi and her husband who is a fishing crew from Lembeh, North Sulawesi. Photo: Plan Indonesia/2021

Stefi joined the North Sulawesi Fishing crews Union (SAKTI) in October 2020 to know more about the issues faced by the fishing crews related to their work rights and obligations, and to advocate for local governments to pay more attention to labor protection. While joining SAKTI, Stefi became more aware of fishing crews’ protection and was able to voice her husband’s rights. The knowledge that Stefi gained was used as a collective action for other wives and other and female relatives of the fishing crews to disseminate information on fishing crews’ rights verbally and also through Facebook and WhatsApp. Through this action, the rights that were previously not given can be fulfilled – and for Stefi’s husband, now the right to religious holiday allowance has been obtained.

“Indeed, in the past, we did not know anything about the rules and laws regarding the protection of fishing boat crews and just accepted the situation and did not know who we would complain about our husbands as fishing crews,” she explained.

Stefi along with the wives of fishing crews providing information about the rights of fishing crews. Photo: Plan Indonesia/2021

In Central Java, the struggle for the protection of the fishing crews was also carried out by Taruni, the wife of a migrant fishing crew on a Peruvian and American foreign ship, from Kramat Village, Tegal Regency. Her husband left in March 2019 and only returned to Indonesia in January 2021 because the company detained her husband and other crews for a year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During detention, Taruni’s husband did not receive social security and had to wait for his salary to be disbursed within 6 months in installments. Taruni struggled to find a way out so that her husband could return to Indonesia by visiting the Fishers Center, a place for information, education, and referral for fishing crews’ protection located in Tegal City. Through referral assistance from the Fishers Center, Taruni reported her husband’s problems to the government and the Indonesian Embassy in Peru to help with the repatriation process.

Through an inclusive approach carried out by the SAFE Seas Project, Stefi, Taruni, wife and other female relatives of fishing crews can inspire everyone to become a driver of change for fishing crews’ protection and encourage women to be able to fight for justice for women as well as men.

The existence of the SAFE Seas Project has a major impact on increasing knowledge related to the legal umbrella to ensure the welfare of fishing crews in terms of income, health, safety, and workforce welfare.

“We continue to encourage the socialization and education that we get to groups and fishing crews in the city of Bitung to prevent forced labor and trafficking in fishing vessels,” said Stefi.

Overview of the SAFE Seas Project

Safeguarding Against and Addressing Fishers’ Exploitation at Sea (SAFE Seas) is a fishing crew protection project managed by Plan International and is being implemented in Indonesia and the Philippines. SAFE Seas aims to combat forced labor and human trafficking on fishing vessels in both countries. In Indonesia, SAFE Seas is implemented by Yayasan Plan International Indonesia (Plan Indonesia), in collaboration with Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia.

Through the SAFE Seas Project, a Fishers Center has been established in the city of Tegal, Central Java, and the city of Bitung, North Sulawesi, a place for fishing crews to get information, education, and referrals to the protection of fishing boat crews.

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) under the IL-31472-18-75-K cooperative agreement. One hundred percent of the total project costs are financed with federal funds, totaling five million dollars. This material does not reflect the views or policies of USDOL, nor does it mention any business names, commercial products, or organizations that imply endorsement by the United States Government.