Women engaged in fish vending should be provided marketing assistance including two-wheelers and financial help at low interest rates, Kerala State Women’s Commission (KSWC) chairperson P. Sathidevi said here on Saturday. She was inaugurating a public hearing at St. Stephen’s Church Hall, Pallithottam, to assess the problems faced by women fish vendors. “Facilities should be provided for ensuring availability and easy marketing of fish. Transport facilities should be made available at least in urban areas. To protect women from the usury by moneylenders, financing should be provided through self-help groups and cooperatives,” she said.

Ms Sathidevi added that the fishing sector contributes significantly to the exchequer of the State as it employs around 35 lakh people directly and 3 lakh people indirectly. “The State government gives great importance to the sector. A sum of ₹35 crore was set aside in the last Budget for setting up and promoting marketing facilities,” she said. Lack of transportation facilities was a major issue raised by the women at the hearing. “Women vendors buying fish from the harbour should be provided a special vehicle to travel to different places. Autos and other vehicles charge huge fares while travels carrying a heavy load cause health problems,” they pointed out. Lack of toilet facilities for women at the harbour, unavailability of bank loans for women vendors and the distress of those who lost their jobs during COVID-19 were the other issues that came up before the commission.

The women also complained that some boats mix stale fish with fresh catch and abuse them if they question the practice. The women wanted to be included under the Kerala Fishermen’s Welfare Fund Board (KFWFB) and demanded that those engaged in allied activities too should be considered fishers. Another suggestion was to spread awareness among the coastal communities about the various welfare schemes and benefits offered by the government under various departments.