This past month we met with a group of courageous artisanal fisherwomen near Devbagh, Karwar. These inspiring women sell the fish that their husbands catch in the wee hours of the morning. Every morning after the final catch is in, the fisherwomen haul up all the fish and set off to different markets to sell them.

Their day is typical – long days selling the fish and returning home late in the afternoon or evening. It is a tough job and harder still when they have to leave their kids behind with no one to take care of them. But these women are taking charge. They have formed a mahila samethi or women’s cooperative with an elected leader to explore ways to better their lives and demand basic rights from the government. In their quest, they are helped by sage men who try to look for practical solutions to meet their needs.  Many of these women or their daughters are educated, some with a B.Ed. Sadly, jobs are hard to come by. Then again, conflicts exists between following the traditional occupation or seeking more higher paying jobs.

Despite their enthusiasm to improve their lives and that of their children, they face a lot of obstacles within and outside their communities. Their needs are basic. For example, they are looking to get about 500 coolers/iceboxes for their community to store and carry fish! They need about 400 solar lamps to overcome the constant problem of loss of power especially for kids to study at night. Lack of durable roofs, bathroom facilities, and a proper community hall for gatherings are other issues that were raised.

The gratifying thing is that despite their hardships, they have tremendous reverence for the sea, for turtles and dolphins. Conservation is just not about independently conducting science, it is also about appreciating and learning from the local masters of the sea, who spend so much more time at sea then the ‘occasional’ scientist.

Thanks to the generosity of Prakruthi Nature Club and Mr. Krishnamurthy NC from Bangalore, we were able to distribute 10 solar lamps to community nominated children on the last day of the fest. But obviously the demand for these solar lamps is much higher.

Their needs matter to us and over the near and long-term, we will engage in active fund-raising and grant writing to help meet some high priority short-term needs like solar lamps and fish storage coolers. If you can help or know of ways to help raise funds to meet these short-term needs, do let us know.