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Female Fish Retailers Gain Access to Sheltered Marketplaces

20 February 2014

EGYPT - Female fish retailers in Egypt now have access to safe and clean sheltered marketplaces thanks to work by WorldFish.

Egyptian aquaculture has seen steady growth over the last 20 years and now supplies around 65% of the fish eaten throughout the country. The industry is also a crucial source of employment, providing more than 100,000 full-time jobs.

Cultured fish is by far the cheapest farmed animal protein in the country, making the sector particularly important for Egypt’s 21 million poor people, who benefit through access to affordable smaller-sized farmed tilapia sold by informal fish retailers, many of whom are women. Informal fish retail is one of the only segments of the aquaculture industry where women are allowed to participate.

The SDC-funded project ‘Improving Employment and Incomes through the Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector’ (IEIDEAS), implemented by WorldFish and CARE in five governorates in Egypt works with women fish vendors to improve their work conditions and earnings.

The women fish retailers that the IEIDEAS project works with have no registration, permits or licenses that provide rights or protections to them as workers. One of the most important consequences of this informal status is a lack of secure, clean space from which to vend.

Women fish retailers are forced to sell their fish along roadsides or in front of shops, exposed to extreme heat during Egypt’s summer. They are often unwelcome in these locations. “People used to kick us off the street refusing our presence, as we sit in front of their houses. The people were even showering the streets with water to stop us from sitting there,” explains Rasha Eid Abdallah who sold fish along the roadside to support her family.

Women like Rasha are also subjected to harassment from the police and local officials who may confiscate their fish or make them pay ‘floor fees’ to sell from their undesignated markets. To address these problems, the IEIDEAS project worked with women fish retailers and a local Community Development Association in Ibshaway village to establish a fixed marketplace for women fish retailers.

The local government provided land for the market, with the Community Development Association and women retailers choosing a site close to where the women used to sit on the roadsides to sell their fish. This ensured that the women didn’t lose their existing customers. The new market provides a concrete base with good drainage and a water tap, making it easy to keep the area clean.

Hamdeya Khalaf, who is one of many fish retailers to benefit from the new marketplace, said: “The market provides us with clean water which we need to use for our fish, rather than begging the families for water as we used to do before.”

It also keeps the women and the fish from the dirt on the street, reduces the risk of harassment by police and shopkeepers, and the potential confiscation of their fish. The market also has a roof so the women and their produce are protected from the weather.

The market is a success – it provides consumers with a clean and central place to buy fish and the women retailers are seeing increased sales in a shorter period of time, giving them more time to take care of their other responsibilities.

Fish vendor Rawya Monayser, noted: “After the establishment of the market, I have more customers as I have a fixed place where they can find me everyday. Thus my sales and income have increased.”

This effective model will be replicated in four other project sites this year, and will be tailored to suit further communities across Egypt over the next few years.

TheFishSite News Desk

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