Earlier this year, fisherwomen in Vengurla led ecotourism efforts in the Sindhudurg district by becoming guides to tourists who came to see mangroves. Now, they are expanding their profile by learning English language skills, which, they believe, will help them cater to foreign tourists.
10 women, under a group called Swamini, take tourists in boats to see the mangroves and explain to them the properties of each tree and their importance . The boats, along with 20 life jackets, were provided to them under the UNDP Sindhudurg Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The Project is being implemented by the Mangrove Cell of the Maharashtra Forest Department.
“The area is visited by several foreign tourists and the women found it difficult to communicate with them. They approached us for help to get training for English speaking skills,” said N Vasudevan, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Mangrove Cell.
The women will be taught by two teachers from the local Balasaheb Khardekar college for three months. Set to begin after Diwali, the classes will be held four times a week. For the 48 sessions, the project will be pumping in a sum of Rs 25,000.
The women, many of whom are graduates, have studied in the Marathi medium. They believe learning English will give their business a fresh boost.
“I understand English but am unable to answer questions. Some of our women fail to understand also. So we requested the authorities to provide us training. If we learn the basics, then we will not only know how to deal with the tourists better but it will also improve our lives,” said Shweta Hule, a B.Com graduate.
Hule, along with the other women, is excited to get back to learning after so many years. “There is a different joy to it. It will be like going back to our carefree college days,” she added.
Their language skills will be put to the test in March when the women plan to organise a boating competition for women in the district on Women’s Day. “Many foreign tourists visit us during the time and it will be like an examination for us,” said Hule.