A Fisher of Women

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The male-dominated fishing industry in Cape Town is making room for Sahra Luyt and her association of fisherwomen, giving less fortunate women the chance to cast their nets towards a better life.

At the start of this century, a mere handful of fisherwomen were netting lobster along shores of the Cape Peninsula in hope of a better future. Ocean-blazer Sahra Luyt, 36, had been going to sea with her skipper and spouse Sedick Larney, 40, since the mid-1990s. “My grandmother always said ’get involved with what your husband is doing,’ so it was just natural to be out there,” she says.

(…)South Africa’s fishing sector is most active in the Western Cape, the province where Sahra lives and works. Nationally, the industry employs about 27,000 people, including fishmongers of both sexes. The fisherpeople, however, are almost all fishermen. But the tide is turning, with 150 females from the Western Cape now fishing as a commercial activity. The mild-mannered lady behind the sea change is Sahra Luyt. In 2000, she created the South African Fisherwomen’s Association (SAFWA) by rounding up a few poor women for public meetings to explain how they, too, can earn their living from the ocean — a radical concept. Word spread and membership is 500-strong, including former street beggars and the extremely impoverished. “I call them ’my ladies,’ she chuckles. The cooperative began with a series of safety courses and fishing competencies. Sahra also helped ladies file government applications for a recreational permit to capture four rock lobsters a day. Factoring the cost of boat rental, the quota could generate daily earnings of between $13 and $22 each.

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Source: Embassy (Canada’s Foreign Policy Newsweekly)