This world would be nothing without a woman…

24 May 2016

Women have various roles in fisheries, from the most traditional one, as a fisher’s wife who supports the fisherman in his fishing preparation and manages his finances, to fisheries business owners to scientist and researchers in fisheries-related field. The work of businesswomen, researchers and scientists may be easy to appreciate as they are often highlighted in the media and can have tangible outputs for the wider fisheries community. But what about the work of the fishermen’s wife? Although she may not always be in the media spotlight, she plays a very important role in fisheries, especially in small-scale fisheries.

Talking about fishing, we are usually talking about fisherman. Have it ever crossed your mind that there is an important person behind the fisherman? On my latest field trip to North Buru, I had a chance to witness the special person behind a fisherman: his wife! After documenting a Fair Trade fishermen association meeting in the fishing village of Waelihang, Maluku, I wanted to document a fisherman’s preparation before he sets sail. I asked Pak Hayon’s permission to follow him and his wife during the fishing trip preparation. Here is the short story…

While Pak Hayon was preparing the fishing gear and fishing equipment, his wife, Mama Hajija, was preparing food and drink for him. At 1 AM, both of them headed to the shore: Pak Hayon was pushing two wooden cart of fishing equipment while his wife was carrying the plastic barrels containing the fuel. I am amazed by how strong she is! When they reached the shore, both of them transferred the supplies from the wooden cart to the vessel. After a final check, they removed the wooden wedges keeping the vessel in place and pushed the vessel to sea. Once the vessel reached the water, Pak Hayon jumped in to the vessel, he and his wife were staring at each other in silence. There is no waving hands, no kiss goodbye, there are no words at that point: a magical silence in the dark night. But I could feel that deep down in her heart, she was praying for her husband… and he was praying for her.  Then she walked back home, barefoot and a little tired after the early morning preparations to support her husband’s fishing trip. She returned to bed around 2.30 AM. Just witnessing the moment stirred my emotions.

While his husband was at the sea, Mama Hajija was busy in the farm, tending to the cassava or picking cloves when the season is right. Of course, she is also in charge of one of the most important and busiest activities: looking after the children.

Around lunchtime, Mama Hajija was sitting on the beach along with other fishermens’ wives and children, waiting for her husband to land with a good catch. Once her husband’s vessel appeared, she, together with the friends around her, helped push the vessel to shore and unload the fish. They spent the rest of the day at the beach, cleaning the vessel, grilling some of the fish and having quality time with their child. And then, they will get ready again to prepare for the next trip the next day.

Mama Hajija’s support for Pak Hayon’s fishing trip is usual activities for fishers’ wives across Maluku and Indonesia in general. Do you have an interesting story about fishers’ wives in your area? If so, Please share your stories with us by e-mail to to be featured in our social media.

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Writer: Indah Rufiati

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