Before Nalini Nayak (born 1946) stepped in, small fishworkers were among the most unorganized groups in Kerala. She has since helped them set up cooperatives and organize themselves into a registered trade union. She founded the Kerala chapter of the Self-Employed Women's Association (Sewa) and helped set up the Program for Community Organization. Nalini's holistic view of development has helped Kerala's fishworker community emerge into a vocal, aware group that can protect its own interests.
Nalini Nayak set off from Bangalore to Kerala to work with virtually the most unorganized group in the state-the small fishworkers. With the help of friends, she organized a series of marketing and credit cooperatives among the fishworkers, and helped them set up a registered trade union that has very effectively put forward the interests of fishworkers to the authorities. Nalini also founded the Kerala chapter of the Sewa at Thiruvananthapuram, which helps women from the fishing communities find alternative jobs. These movements have also strengthened the voice of the fishworker community, which today has access to special vehicles, at least in some areas, as opposed to the complete denial of public transport to fishworkers in the past. In Kerala, Nalini also helped set up the Program for Community Organization (PCO), which works with men, women, and young people to focus them on better management of fishery resources, better education, health, sanitation, transportation, and housing. Through the PCO, women traders and vendors have been able to confront exploitative taxes and harassment at the markets. While she is intensely involved with the rights and interests of fishworkers, Nalini sees the need to balance their interests with that of their ecosystem. That is, in the end, the source of their sustenance. She has been particularly vocal about the need to protect and regenerate the coastal ecosystem, and to protest against the industrialization of the coastal shrimp culture. Nalini has learnt to admire the skill and courage of the fishworkers who brave the seas in tiny boats. She speaks with awe about the stamina and dexterity of the women who process and sell fish. She speaks with rage about the processes that undermine their very livelihoods.
Self-Employed Women's Association (Sewa) Program for Community Organization (PCO) Coastal Women's Association (CWA)