Women make up an important part of the fishing sector and play critical roles, particularly, in small-scale fisheries and increasingly in capture fishing and other activities. However, the roles of women are often undervalued due to the lack of attention to gender roles in fisheries, especially in Africa. This research was therefore motivated to investigate the roles of women in two coastal communities of Sierra Leone. Structured questionnaires were administered to 200 randomly selected women involved in fisheries activities in Goderich and Tombo (the two largest fish landing communities in Sierra Leone). Results obtained showed that married women between ages between 20 – 50 years were more actively involved in fisheries activities in Goderich and Tombo. Findings of the study showed that 100% of the women were involved in the processing and marketing of fish and fish related products. Most of the respondents affirmed that the fisheries have increased their income, while others said that it reduced their expenditure on food supply and other household needs. Profits made according to 60% of the respondents ranged from Le 400,000 to Le 500,000 ($52.3 – $65.4), while 40% make close to Le 600,000 ($78.4) on monthly basis. Woods for fish smoking in Goderich and Tombo were mangrove (93.6%) and forest woods (6.40%.). Constraints identified by the respondents in the two communities were poor state of the landing sites and poor fish handling, inadequate cold room and smoking kilns, poor access to credit, high labour and processing inputs cost, high illiteracy and poor toilet facilities. The low level of respondents` education prevents women from taking part in decision-making that affects their livelihood in the communities.
Key words: Coastal communities, Goderich, Tombo, women, fishery activities, livelihood, constraints and Sierra Leone.
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