These Women Are Saving The Coastal Town Of Vengurla And Turning It Into A Tourist Hub
- IWB Post
- March 12, 2018
The women of the Koli (fisherfolk) community have always been known for their bold and confident behaviour and this time too they have proved that once they decide to do something, there is no deterring them from their path. In Vengurla, the Koli women aren’t only saving their part of Arabian coastline from encroachers and thieves but also making a living out of it.
A small coastal town in the district of Sindhudurg in the state of Maharashtra, Vengurla is today known for its mangrove safari, with women tourist guides.
“In a short span of four months (January–April 2017) we made a profit of Rs 70,000,” stated Shweta Hule, who is part of the self-help group, Swamini in Vengurla. While states like Kerala, West Bengal, and others are also known for their mangrove safari, being the only all-women group in India engaged in mangrove tourism sets Swamini apart.
The venture started when Shweta interacted with one of the women working with the Maharashtra Forest Department and explained to her the idea of women engaging in mangrove tourism.
“While interacting with her, I explained the idea that we had, and she put us in touch with the concerned authorities. So the process actually started in 2015.”
Two boats, 20 life jackets, and one gazebo was provided to them by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme, India) in collaboration with the Mangrove Cell, Maharashtra Department. In the gazebo, they not only keep their belongings but also run a small restaurant where they offer sea delicacies and other food items. Their plan was funded by the Global Environmental Facility.
But their journey to success wasn’t easy, they faced hurdles like running the boats.
“We had never ventured into the sea on our own and now to take tourists along with us was something we had to take care of as at no time could we risk the safety of a tourist,” said Gautami Hule.
After they were taught by Satish Hule, a deep sea fisherman and husband of one of the members, who taught them how to navigate, row and berth the boat.
“Initially, we encountered a lot of problems. The worst was the excruciating pain in our arms,” remembered Priyanka Dhabolkar, who is a widow and only working person in her family.
“Many people from our community tried to dissuade us from taking this up. They laughed and made fun of our efforts. This, in turn, encouraged us and we decided to learn everything about the boat and the mangrove so that we are not found wanting if a tourist quizzes us,” said Jhanvi Hule, recalling how they endured the physical pain but still carried on with their household work.
“But now that we have tasted success, not only our family but the entire community is happy and supportive of us,” she added.
The other difficulty they faced and are still facing is that except Shweta, who is a graduate, others aren’t well-educated, so for them conversing in English is problematic when it comes to non-Marathi speaking tourists. But with the help of the Mangrove Cell, two English lecturers from the Balasaheb Khardekar College have been arranged to teach them conversational English.
Women like her are proof that waiting for others to empower you is not the solution, one has to take the initiative for their betterment.
H/T: The Better India