Undeterred, stitching back net of life

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Widows of Ockhi are learning to make nets to stay afloat

Much of their lives have been around fishing nets. The stories of the biggest losses of their lives are also related to these nets. Now, the slow rebuilding of their lives too happen around these nets.

On the top floor of the Kerala State Cooperative Federation for Fisheries Development’s (Matsyafed) fishing net-making factory behind the Beemapally mosque, 37 women who have lost their husbands to Cyclone Ockhi are learning a new craft to stay afloat.

Pavitha, 36, from Poonthura who had never gone for work outside her house, have been undergoing training in net making, with others like her.

Her husband Moses, who had come back to Kerala after 15 years in Dubai, had gone to the sea on November 29 with another fisherman.

Skeletal remnants of his friend’s body were recovered from near Beypore, a month later. But Moses’s body never turned up.

Relief for many

The job has come as a relief for Pavitha, who has to look after three daughters.

“The government has deposited a compensation of ₹20 lakh, from which we can draw a monthly interest of ₹14,000. Here, I get paid ₹10,000 a month during the training period. The government is also funding for the children’s education. This is the first time I am going out for work. So, I am still getting used to it,” says Pavitha.

Selvi from Adimalathura used to help with the loading and unloading work at a nearby fishing harbour. She did not get the body of her 38-year-old husband who went with 16 others to the sea on the day Ockhi hit. She is also slowly finding her feet at the factory.

“My biggest concern now is to catch the only direct bus from home to here. If I miss that, I will have to shell out a lot of money for auto. Four of my children are in school. I do get affected by back pain often from this work, but I have to continue working for the children,” she says.

Their work involves mending holes in the nets after it passes through the stitching machine.

“Matsyafed already has two centres in Ernakulam and Kannur. This centre was launched two years back. There is huge demand for fishing nets. We got two people from the Ernakulam centre to train these women. Some of them are learning fast, while a few are naturally struggling,” says V.B. Geetha, manager of the facility.

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