Authors: Nitya Rao, S. Velvizhi and Alessandra Silver
The covid-19 lockdown brought all fishing trade and supply chains to a halt. This short film, made as part of the FisherCoast project, presents the voices of women fish vendors in a coastal village of Tamil Nadu explaining how Covid-19 reduced their income and increased their debts.
Women of diverse age groups are engaged in fish vending, which itself varies in nature: some carry baskets of fish on their head to sell in the village’s streets, others travel to nearby villages by autos, vans or buses, and some even travel to other districts by bus to sell fish in the markets there. While they are members the 1,100-strong fisherwomen’s cooperative society in the village, there were no easy solutions to the loss of their daily trade, essential for their livelihood.
Most of the women vendors, like Senthil Kumari, reported a loss of earnings. Forced to borrow from private moneylenders and microfinance companies just to meet the basic needs of the family, they have been pushed into a cycle of debt – with few possibilities for repaying the loans.
The capital and financial requirements of women fish vendors, however, is not a subject addressed by state policy. And as unemployment of men has increased, more women, even from non-fisher communities, have started vending fish. This has increased the cost of fish, the cost of transport, and reduced returns further. Yet they carry on day after day, rising early to go to the harbour, buying fish, facing abuses, yet selling to their best abilities.
The film was made in collaboration between the University of East Anglia, Institut Francais de Pondichery (IFP) and the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai.