Ethnographic film (2022) (7.22 minutes) Authors: Nitya Rao, Nicolas Bautes, Tara Lawrence and Alessandra Silver
Women play a central role in the daily life of fishing families and are vital to the success of the fishing economy, yet we currently know little about how changes in fishing technologies affect their lives and livelihoods.
They remain largely invisible and unheard in the domain of fisheries management. This short film, prepared as part of the Fishercoast project, seeks to give voice to the perspectives of women working in the Cuddalore Old Town harbour.
In 2018, the government of Tamil Nadu banned the use of the ring seine gear, due to its role in overfishing and destruction of the marine environment. This technology, using encircling techniques to catch passing schools of pelagic fish, gained popularity on the Cuddalore coast from the late 1990s, increasing rapidly following the 2004 Asian tsunami. The need it created for large capital investments and growing demands for labour, made small-scale fishers form groups of shareholders, sharing both costs and returns.
Women also got opportunities to invest in the boats and grow their business as auctioneers, vendors and driers of fish. For Veni, it enabled her to construct a house and educate her four children single-handedly, enhancing her economic security and social status in the process. With the ban in place and no alternate livelihoods, women like her, and many more, are struggling to survive. They want their voices heard.
This is a story of agency and strength, of women supporting each other through hard times, taking time off to build solidarity, not giving up. They can’t afford to.
The film was made in collaboration between the University of East Anglia and Institut Francais de Pondichery (IFP).