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With a heart strong enough to subdue the deep sea – India’s first licensed fisherwoman

The folk tales of the sea were based on the belief that when the fishermen went to the deep sea, the womenfolk were supposed to sit at home praying for their men’s safe return. K.C. Rekha made a big correction on this by choosing a road not taken by any women so far.  Rekha lives in the coastal region of Chettuva, Chavakkad in the Thrissur district of Kerala, India. She doesn’t mean a revolution in the male-centric culture. It was a struggle for her family, to help her husband, with the only known job. With her immense faith in the sea goddess, she moves on. She enjoys the position of the first licensed fisherwoman in the country.

Rekha’s family consists of her husband, Karthikeyan and four daughters. The couple started their life without the support of their parents and Karthikeyan was a fisherman by profession. The difficulty in finding co-workers in his boat and his worst health condition made their life miserable.  Like all others, she wants to drive her family from the financial crisis and provide her children, with a better life. Thus she along with her companion started this adventurous job.

She had to toil through a series of hardships. She had to undergo a lot of physical problems. She vomited continuously until blood came. This continued for a few weeks. She didn’t know how to sit or stand on the boat properly and was unaware of how to swim then. Society made negative remarks about her new initiative. The social norms were against her wishes. With her hard work and confidence, she ignored all the difficulties. Looking straight into the deep sea, unbowed to the situational barriers, she moves on with her husband and harvests the bread for life. Without Karthikeyan’s support, she couldn’t have attained the laurels in life. Life at sea is always challenging. There were many instances they just escaped from adversities.

Now she is good at casting, pulling the net, steering the boat etc. They rely purely on traditional knowledge. They didn’t have a compass, GPS device or any other modern equipment. She applied for the licence which is to safeguard the life of fishing people against the dangers of the sea. The authorities first denied it by saying that no woman has ever entered into this profession. In 2017 she was granted a fishing licence by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute [CMFRI]. Before getting the licence, she was honoured by Sudarshan Bhagat, the Central Minister for her work. After getting the licence, she received media attention and several prestigious awards including ‘The Sthree Ratna Award for outstanding achievement in the area of women empowerment by ESAF, a new age social bank, presented by M C Josephine, former Chairperson of State Women Commission. She also received Kairali tv’s Jwala Kairali award from Padmasree Bharat Mammootty. CMFRI helped them by providing technical and financial aid and also a scholarship to their eldest daughter.

With the knowledge about climates and the sea along with her strong belief in Kadalamma, Rekha marked her position as India’s first woman to achieve a deep sea fishing licence. She was not ready to give up on the struggles of life. She gives the message that through strong determination, willpower and hard work one can attain success in any profession.

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