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Effects of Forced Labor and Trafficking in Persons on Female Relatives of Male Fishers


The study “Effects of Forced Labor and Trafficking in Persons on Female Relatives of Male Fishers” takes a closer look at women’s awareness of forced labor and trafficking in persons (FL/TIP) on fishing vessels, how FL/TIP affects women and their families, how women cope with these effects, and their potential as key advocates for fair working conditions at sea.

A total of 210 women, most of which are wives of fishers, were surveyed in Kiamba and Glan, Sarangani and General Santos City using a mixed-methods approach.

The overall research results will inform the implementation of the SAFE Seas project activities and determine how and to what extent women could be engaged to combat FL/TIP on fishing vessels in Indonesia and the Philippines. The research findings will also inform policymakers and relevant stakeholders on how to alleviate livelihood challenges and exploitation faced by the most vulnerable members of the fishing community in the Sarangani and GenSan area.

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

The study, “Effects of Forced Labor and Trafficking in Persons on Female Relatives of Male Fishers,” is part of Plan International’s Safeguarding Against and Addressing Fishers’ Exploitation at Sea (SAFE Seas) project. The objectives of this study are: (i) to assess women’s awareness and knowledge of forced labor and trafficking in persons (FL/TIP) on fishing vessels; (ii) to explore women’s experiences and coping strategies to deal with the impact of FL/TIP; (iii) to assess gender norms and gender relationships in the fishing community; and (iv) to identify potential future roles for women and how women’s agency can contribute to prevention and protection against FL/TIP.

This study took place in Kiamba and Glan, Sarangani Province and General Santos City (GenSan) of the Soccsksargen region, where the SAFE Seas project is being implemented.

This study employed a mixed-methods approach comprising both qualitative and quantitative methods with the following four target groups: (i) key stakeholders, including local government units, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community members and boat owners; (ii) wives or female relatives of male fishers; (iii) fishers working on fishing vessels who have experience or are aware of FL/TIP; and (iv) wives whose male partners have been victims of FL/TIP on fishing vessels and lived in Sarangani Province or GenSan. The survey team interviewed a total of 210 women, the vast majority being wives of fishers in 12 barangays in Kiamba, Glan and GenSan. The qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 key informant interviews (seven women and three men), six focus group discussions (FGDs of four female groups and two male groups) and 10 in-depth interviews with wives whose husbands were victims of FL/TIP. All data collection was conducted during February-March 2020.

Key findings:

  • Awareness of the concept of FL/TIP occurring on fishing vessels is low among women. Limited awareness of FL/TIP among women, especially among those who are more vulnerable, is linked to a lack of education and knowledge about labor rights and legal support services. Moreover, even if some women can recognize some types of abuses (lower wages, withholding of salary, etc.), there is a general lack of understanding of fishing laws and regulations, and how to seek assistance or redress from the authorities.
  • The top three negative impacts of forced labor and human trafficking on fishing vessels to fishers’ wives are anxiety and stress, having to take on additional work on top of their daily household chores to make ends meet, and managing household indebtedness
  • Cultural gender norms constitute the root cause of gender inequality within the fishers’ households and communities. Women typically do not have formal roles in the fishing sector, and their work tends to be unpaid or underpaid.
  • Women are central to their family’s wellbeing and are the primary decision-makers when it comes to managing household finances and negotiating loans.
  • Considering women’s participation and representation in local community organizations, women may have considerable influence at the community level. Through collective action, they may also have potential roles in advocating and applying pressure to the local government for more action against labor violations.


  • Raise women’s awareness on FL/TIP, labor rights, legal services, and advocacy strategies
  • Enable access to affordable loans and social protection programs
  • Promote livelihood and skills development for greater agency and empowerment of fisher households
  • Build stakeholders’ capacity and coordination to improve the livelihood of fisher households, provide reporting mechanisms for labor violations, and promote gender-sensitive policies that tackle gender stereotypes and occupational segregation.
  • Effects of Forced Labor and Trafficking in Persons on Female Relatives of Male Fishers