TN woman gets US prize for protecting sea life
Pamban: A 45-year-old woman from this coastal town in Ramanthapuram district, a professional sea algae harvester, has won the Seacology Prize for the best women leader in protecting and conserving marine lives and resources. Lakshmi Moorthy would travel to California on 8 October to receive the award, National Fishermen?s Federation said in a press release here today.
The Seacology, an environment non-profit organisation based in USA, had selected Lakshmi for this year?s award for her contribution in conserving the marine resources and cultural traditions of Chinnapalam, a small coastal hamlet here. She is the first Indian woman and community leader to win the award, consisting of $ 10,000 and a trophy.
Lakshmi is heading the Gulf of Mannar seaweed collect women?s forum, the women?s wing of the Ramanathapuram district fish workers trade union, which proposed her name for the award in coordination with Vembar-based People?s Action for Development and International Collective in Support of Fish Workers. According to the website run by Seacology, at their June board of directors meeting, they selected Lakshmi Moorthy for the 2015 Seacology Prize.
It said since childhood, Lakshmi had worked in the Gulf of Mannar as a seaweed harvester, a subsistence living for many of the women of her community. But in 2002, their livelihood came under threat as the government, in a well-meaning but poorly designed action, began enforcing a marine reserve in their traditional harvesting grounds.
The women?s boats and even food and water were confiscated, ?sometimes by corrupt officials who demanded bribes to return them?. Seacology goes on to add that Lakshmi helped organise the displaced workers into a federation, of which she became president.
After a long period of negotiation with government representatives, NGOs, and conservation scientists, the group struck an agreement to protect the environment and women?s livelihood.
?In 2014, the government agreed to recognize the Gulf of Mannar seaweed collectors as a unique group of women fishers and issued them biometric ID cards, to protect them from harassment by officials. They are now free - within the restrictions they themselves have imposed - to safeguard the resource and to pursue their livelihood.?