Kerala's seafaring fisherwoman honoured for breaking male bastion

Kerala's seafaring fisherwoman honoured for breaking male bastion
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Kochi: After becoming the first woman in the country to get a deep-sea fishing licence, Rekha Karthikeyan of Thrissur district was on Friday felicitated by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) for excelling in what is conventionally a male domain.

At a function in the MPEDAs headquarters here, Rekha was given a memento and a pair of life-jackets besides a financial package of Rs 6.6 lakh jointly contributed by Accelerated Freeze Drying Co Ltd, Tasty Nibbles Group and Seafood Export Association of India.

MPEDA chairman K S Srinivas, while praising Rekha for her grit and determination, expressed happiness over women entering vocations that have traditionally been male bastions.

These days, she fishes in the deep sea, covering 50 nautical miles daily on an average, he added.

All that, without the mariner's compass or even a life-jacket.

Rekha, 40, who lives with her husband and four children at their house in coastal Chettuva, south of Guruvayur, recalled that it was 12 years ago that she, without knowing how to swim, first ventured into deep sea with her husband K V Karthikeyan.

While the sea is expected to be choppy, resistance awaited me back on the shores too. For, society kept saying fishing cannot be a females profession, said Rekha, who originally hails from Koorkenchery in suburban Thrissur.

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Women must not be indifferent towards injustice. We need to take up challenges boldly, she added, citing experiences from personal and professional fronts.

Notwithstanding the initial hiccups, Rekha and her husband, of late a heart patient, would take their boat in the small hours (around 3 am) to fish.

She also learned swimming and later applied for a licence to fish deep in the sea.

Authorities refused to give her the document until the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute intervened and arranged to grant Rekha the licence in early 2019.

“It is not practical to go out to the sea without a helper in the boat. These days, it is hard to find people to for this job. Chettan (Karthikeyan) looked out for someone for a long time and finally I decided to give it a try. We couldn’t afford to not go fishing; we have four girls to bring up and there’s never enough. Two were better than one and I was determined to give it my best if it would help him stay in the job. Now I am as good as any fisherman in casting the net, pulling the net in, steering the boat and so on. Of course, we faced the wrath of the village as tradition stops women from going to the sea. Now they have reconciled to the fact. The superstitions never scared me. Why would I be, when the sea is like my mother? I know I have nothing to be afraid of when I am in her lap,” Rekha had said during an interview Onmanorama featured on December 9, 2017.

(With inputs from PTI)

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