Jambula Mamas prove women can create an impact in the fisheries sector

by Sri Sumiati Jalil, M.A. Indira Prameswari

What comes first to your mind when you hear the word ‘fisher’? If it is the image of a fisherman, that does not come as a surprise since we see more representations of fishermen as men dominate the fisheries sector. However, in Jambula, North Maluku, a group of women are breaking stereotypes.

According to data from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in 2021, women make up only 10% of the total population in Indonesia’s fisheries sector. This condition is evident in Jambula, North Maluku, where most fishers are men. Indeed, traditional gender roles are still at play in the village: while men go on a fishing trip, women assist them in preparing supplies and logbook recording when needed.

I usually do the logbooks when my husband is too tired to do it,” said Endang, one of the mamas in Jambula. In North Maluku, ‘mama’ is a term used to refer to older women and the wives of fishers.

Despite being a minority living in a traditional community, mamas are still making a significant impact for their village development. Endang is one of the members of Bubula Ma Cahaya Cooperative, a cooperative supported by MDPI, and with other mamas, they are taking on financial and business management roles.

All mamas in the cooperative are used to taking care of sales operations with export suppliers. Mama Aryanti is one of them and has a detailed understanding of fish quality. She regularly receives and records tunas from the fishers and labels them accordingly. If a product is qualified for export, Aryanti will label it with an ‘M’ code, an abbreviation for ‘Masuk’ that roughly translates to ‘qualified’ in Indonesian. If not, she will label it ‘L’ for local.

Mama Aryanti taking notes on products.

“A product can receive ‘L’ label because of quality changes. The meat is usually paler. Maybe the fish got sick in the wild,” said Aryanti.

Not all fish can be sold to suppliers, and those that cannot be sold for exports will be sold to locals. Outside of tuna season, mamas will sell skipjack and neritic tunas at the local market.

Mamas do not use all sales to cover their families’ daily needs, as most sales proceeds are used to finance fishing trip supplies like gas and foods for fishers. For a fishing trip, up to 50 liters of fuel are required, as well as ice blocks and foods, which can add up to a significant total cost.

Bubula Ma Cahaya Cooperative Discussion involved women to share their opinions to improve.

However, the condition has improved since they have established a cooperative. They can now access boat fuel easily at a lower price as the cooperative has received local government recommendations for gasoline access, which enable them to finance fishing trips more efficiently. “After the establishment of the cooperative, we were able to purchase fuel below its retail price,” Aryanti explained.

Jambula mamas are an example of how women can break stereotypes and make a significant impact in the traditionally male-dominated fisheries sector. Their dedication and hard work have not only benefited their families but also contributed to the development of their community. Jambula mamas can serve as a source of inspiration, proving that gender should not be a barrier to success in any sector.