Emerging scientist: Afrina Choudhury

As a global leader in fisheries and aquaculture research, science is at the forefront of our work, delivering robust evidence to policy makers, technological innovations to poor producers and consumers, and novel tools to transform fish agri-food systems. In this new series, we profile our emerging scientists, early career research talents who are already making a significant contribution to fisheries and aquaculture knowledge.

Afrina Choudhury is a Research Fellow (Senior Gender Specialist) at WorldFish Bangladesh. Her work is focused on gender relations and aquaculture livelihoods, including gender-transformative approaches. A career highlight since she joined WorldFish in 2008 was receiving the best presentation award at the 2016 Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Conference. She has a Master of Development Studies and plans to start a PhD in 2019.

What are you currently working on?   

My work, as part of my upcoming PhD, is focused on women’s entrepreneurship and inclusive enterprise development in aquaculture. I am also working on two papers that build the case for applying gender-transformative approaches, based on evidence from two of our past studies.

What’s the most exciting thing about gender research?  

When our data shows positive changes in gender indicators.

What’s a memorable piece of research you’ve been part of?  

I will never forget doing two case studies on women’s empowerment in Bangladesh for WorldFish and FAO in 2016. It was so interesting to compare the empowerment outcomes of women earning a direct income from shrimp factories against women working in family-owned homestead ponds and saving food costs. Also interesting was the greater value that men attributed to the factory women, whose work created a tangible benefit, i.e. income to the family. This increased value even led to flexibility around norms, with some men helping women with their domestic work.

Afrina Choudhury, Senior Gender Scientist, WorldFish Bangladesh, presenting at COP13. Photo by WorldFish.

You were recently elected as Chair of the Bangladesh National Gender Working Group. What do you hope to achieve in this role?

To more systematically enable knowledge sharing about research and development around gender. I would also like the group to expand and act as an advisory platform for policy and research.

What are your favorite parts of the research process? 

Field work and the analysis. Field work is always an eye opener; there is always so much I did not know. I come back with a wealth of knowledge and I get very excited about analyzing the data.

What innovation has the greatest potential to impact on gender relations and aquaculture livelihoods in Bangladesh?  

Gender-transformative approaches (GTA) have great potential to allow projects to successfully and sustainably engage women in the development process. In Bangladesh, harmful norms greatly constrain women’s abilities to pursue livelihoods or innovations. GTA helps to address those norms by allowing women, their families and communities to critically reflect on the norms that govern their lives. 

Can you tell us about a recent piece of research that you’ve published?

My gender colleague and I recently published a brief on the gendered ownership of aquaculture resources, which is based on earlier research by the International Livestock Research Institute in Africa. It looks at the nuanced nature of gendered ownership and how it affects women’s ability to innovate, pursue aquaculture or even their empowerment. It suggests that ownership in and of itself may not directly lead to empowerment outcomes; it is far more complicated. The brief provides recommendations to development practitioners in aquaculture on how to address these nuanced gendered ownership issues.

What do you hope your research achieves?  

I hope my research provides the necessary evidence to adjust the way we work with women or address gender in agriculture/aquaculture projects. I hope to provide tangible and evidence-based approaches to engage women that enables transformation. I also want my research to show biophysical scientists that GTA can lead to better outcomes around productivity and income. This may help GTA to be widely merged with technical interventions.