Srinagar, Jan 28: Jalla Begum, a fisherwoman in her mid-sixties daily casts net into Dal Lake and eagerly waits for fresh fish catch. But her journey doesn't end here as the catch is not enough to earn two square meals for her family.
“I become both buyer and seller, acquiring fish from fellow wholesalers and then venturing to the market. It's a journey of hard work and determination,” she says.
"From the lake to the marketplace, we weave a tale of resilience, ensuring not just our families but the whole community tastes the fruits of our struggle." Jalla continued.
Like Jalla, other fisher-women are facing many issues. Despite their long-time involvement in fishing, they don't receive much recognition. They miss out on education and other chances, and have to face unfair and occasional mistreatment sometimes from locals. Low wages add to their difficulties, making their lives tougher.
These women wake up early in the morning to go out and catch fishes even in very harsh and cold conditions to support their families. Despite facing many difficulties, the strong women, who have always been supporting their families, haven't let these challenges make them lose hope.
Even though they face struggles and tough times, these women keep going as they are the caretakers of their families. Their daily challenges show how tough it is to be a fisherwoman in Srinagar, but it also proves how strong and determined they are while living and working on Dal Lake.
Hajra Bano, a 55-year-old fisherwoman shares her experience. "Our fishing business doesn't seem to be valued. After all these years, it's disheartening to feel like what we do doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Customers want top-quality fish, but when we ask for fair prices, they hesitate to buy. It's tough when what they demand doesn't match the rates they're willing to pay." she said
"On our fishing journey, it's tough. We work hard, face challenges, but we keep going. Our strength keeps us moving forward despite the struggles," she added
"Arguing with well-off people won't help; we want them to buy our fishes. I used to earn 500 rupees a day before, but now it's only around 200 - 250. Our main fishing spot is Dal Lake, but pollution is increasing, and it's killing a large number of fishes," explains Khalida (name changed), a 56-year-old fisherwoman.
Fisher-women also face problems when they announce "Gadi haa chaw" (Fish for sale) in localities. “People get upset by the loud calls, making our tough job even harder.”
This mistreatment adds stress to their daily struggles, as they work hard to support their families with their fish-selling efforts.
Sabreena Dar, another fisherwoman, opens up about the hardships of her work: "Every day, we confront numerous challenges, and I wouldn't wish this on our children. Witnessing the difficulties, I won't let my kids enter this field; it turned my life into a struggle, and I don't want that for them. Some days, we don't even earn a single penny, making it tough to make ends meet," she said.
"I dream of a better life for my children, one without the hardships I've faced. Despite the tough times, I hold onto the hope that they can have a brighter future, away from the struggles that have marked my own journey as a fisherwoman," she added.
Fisherwomen are strong in their task in spite of all odds. Although it's difficult, they persevere in the hopes that others would recognise and appreciate the sacrifices they make on behalf of their family.
Ruksana Akther, a fisherwoman says that, "societal norms and community pressures caused problems; my daughter got married in her 40s due to the challenges. It was a struggle, but she faced it with bravery.”
"I wish for a world where societal expectations don't create obstacles, allowing everyone to make life choices freely and happily," she added.
"We're the last ones in this, and we formed a group and decided one price for every brand of fish. Because by working together, we're making our lives a bit easier. In unity, we're paving the way for a better life for ourselves,” said another fisher woman wishing anonymity.
"Though we might be the last, we're not giving up. Instead, we're standing together, determined to make positive changes and bring a sense of ease to our lives through mutual support and fair rates." she added.