Goat and soda: NPR

Justine Adhiambo Obura with a “No Sex for Fish” boat at Nduru Beach. She is the president of the cooperative, and she came up with a radical idea in a community where fishermen often demand sex before supplying their fish to women: if women owned their own boats and hired men to fish for them How to do?

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

Justine Adhiambo Obura with a “No Sex for Fish” boat at Nduru Beach. She is the president of the cooperative, and she came up with a radical idea in a community where fishermen often demand sex before supplying their fish to women: if women owned their own boats and hired men to fish for them How to do?

Viola Kosome at NPR

About this series

Over the next week, we’ll be reviewing some of our favorites goat and soda Story Watch “Whatever Happened…”

When the NPR team met Justine Adhiambo Obura in the fall of 2019, she was wearing a turquoise T-shirt with the catchy message: “No Sex for Fish.”

It’s not just a catchy slogan. This is a summary of the indignities women face in her world and how they can reverse the power dynamics.

In some lakeside communities in Africa and other parts of the world, men fish and women sell. For many women living in poverty, with low levels of education and lack of job opportunities, there is no other way to earn a living and raise children.

As the supply of fish dwindled everywhere, fishermen began to demand sex in exchange for providing women with fish to sell. This is the case at Nduru Beach on Lake Victoria where Obura lives. Many fishermen are HIV-positive and infected women. These women hate the practice of sex trafficking, but many believe they have no choice. “I trade sex; I get fish,” Mika Onyango, mother of six, told us. “I don’t care about HIV. I, I need fish. I need money to support my family.”

In 2011 Obura and others came up with a game-changing idea. What if they owned their own boat – and hired someone to fish for them? With the help of several Peace Corps volunteers and a series of grants, they started the “No Sex For Fish” cooperative. Eventually, Nduru Beach and 8 other regional villages got boats – about 30 in total. Not only do the women of Nduru Beach make a living, they have established a sizable rainy day fund—about $6,000—that they donate or lend to members who are experiencing financial stress.

Then came an unprecedented series of rainy days. In early 2020, Lake Victoria rose and flooded Nduru Beach. About 1,000 residents fled to safety. They abandoned their homes; many of them had no choice but to live in makeshift shelters at local schools. They have no personal savings – there is no way to make money for women who “don’t have sex with fish”. The women — some of them single mothers, some of them HIV-positive — saw most of their boats lost or damaged beyond repair. The money the organization has saved over the years has allowed them to get through these dire times.

Some former fishmongers turned to agriculture. There’s a “no fish sex” chapter at nearby Kusa Beach, and a tomato project looks promising. Some women at Obura and Nduru beaches have also tried farming. It doesn’t work for them.

Eventually, the lake receded, and the women of Ndulu Beach came up with a plan that seemed risky but made sense to them: Let’s get back to fishing.

Here’s the story of the unexpected revival of No Sex for Fish.

A tall woman walks around a boat, and carpenters slowly seal the sides of the boat to stop water seeping in. She’s Justin Adianbo Obra, a founding member of the “No Sex Fish” cooperative.

Carpenters are putting the finishing touches on the boat, which is built from Ugandan hardwood, making it durable as a fishing boat on Lake Victoria.

“We are slowly restoring our sources of life and livelihoods,” Obura said. “Through our efforts in the No Sex for Fish group, our members are slowly getting back to business.”

A carpenter builds a new boat out of Ugandan hardwood on Nduru Beach. The boat is one of three being built by the No Sex for Fish group, which this year received funding from World Connect to replace boats lost to catastrophic flooding.

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

A carpenter builds a new boat out of Ugandan hardwood on Nduru Beach. The boat is one of three being built by the No Sex for Fish group, which this year received funding from World Connect to replace boats lost to catastrophic flooding.

Viola Kosome at NPR

‘Amazing’ turn of events

Tim Kibet of Kenya, an on-site agent for charity World Connect, said the fact that the boat was built for Asexual Fish was “surprising”. That’s the group that funded the early boats, and this summer handed out about $8,000 in grants to build three new boats and buy the massive nets needed for fishing.

Fishing nets are an important and expensive part of the fishing industry. Above: Fishermen get some help from local kids preparing their nets before a Lake Victoria fishing expedition.

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

Fishing nets are an important and expensive part of the fishing industry. Above: Fishermen get some help from local kids preparing their nets before a Lake Victoria fishing expedition.

Viola Kosome at NPR

A year ago, after catastrophic floods, No Sex with Fish seemed to have run its course, he recalled. “Their boats were destroyed, the women were destroyed and they didn’t know what to do. I’m glad they stood up for themselves as a group.”

Patrick Higdon of World Connect’s London office, who oversees funding for No Sex for Fish, was equally surprised: “Last year was pretty dismal. Seeing this [fishing] Get back on your feet, we always knew they wanted it and had the perseverance. But it seems the conditions do not allow this. “

“They’ve been adamant that they need to start fishing again,” Higdon said. “There was flooding, houses were damaged, everything we read about the economics of the fishery and the reduction in catches, it was unbelievable – but they persevered. This is what they know, what they know can be profitable .

Alice Amonde, treasurer of the No Sex for Fish cooperative, is one of the few Nduru Beach residents to return after flooding wreaked havoc on their homes. Many buildings in the village have mud walls and tin roofs.

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

Alice Amonde, treasurer of the No Sex for Fish cooperative, is one of the few Nduru Beach residents to return after flooding wreaked havoc on their homes. Many buildings in the village have mud walls and tin roofs.

Viola Kosome at NPR

Given the unlikely turn of events, Higdon said: “It’s amazing, it’s so cool.”

back to the beach

Ten women are part of a revived ‘No Sex For Fish’ co-op. They both used to live on Nduru Beach but were displaced by the floods. The water has receded. Some have returned to the village, including the group’s treasurer and another member.

A boat has been completed using the new grant and is already fishing in the lake. The women salvaged two engines from the previous boat and used one on the new boat. The fishermen took their boats out for the night. In the morning, several women from the No Sex for Fish group met the boat. They take turns because most of them now live off Nduru Beach and may have to walk 30 minutes or take a motorbike taxi to the shore.

On a recent morning in August, two women were cleaning up freshly caught fish—Nile perch, catfish, tilapia, a species of precursor. They will sell most of their daily catch, but will also bring the fish home to feed their families. The women said they made about $10 a day.

The income helps support the family, and a portion of it is used to rebuild their reserves to meet future needs. Since the women resumed fishing in July, they have saved about $600 — about the average monthly salary in Kenya.

The hope is that some of these savings will eventually help flood-displaced members find permanent housing.

There is another ambitious goal: to build more ships, so their businesses and revenues will grow.

Persist and plan

Of course, the lake may rise again. So the team needed a plan to ensure their new ship would survive any future disaster.

Their solution will definitely be low-tech. One plan is to place the boat among wild papyrus plants when not in use. Towering plants keep the boat from being washed away in a flood.

In addition to the flood crisis, the women faced personal tragedy. Rose Atieno Abongo is grieving the loss of her 26-year-old son, whose body she found outside her home about a month ago. She suspects he was killed by robbers and must now raise her remaining 5 children without his income as a fisherman.

Rose Atieno Abongo, a member of the No Sex for Fish cooperative, hopes the three new boats will bring in more revenue. A mother of six, she is mourning the death of her 26-year-old son last month. She believed he was killed by robbers.

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

Rose Atieno Abongo, a member of the No Sex for Fish cooperative, hopes the three new boats will bring in more revenue. A mother of six, she is mourning the death of her 26-year-old son last month. She believed he was killed by robbers.

Viola Kosome at NPR

“I spent all my money on my son’s funeral, and I didn’t even have any money to continue my fish business,” Abango said.

But she still hopes life will get better. She decided to be part of the Sexless Fish revival so she could feed her children.

Lorine Otieno Abuto is a member of the No Sex for Fish cooperative. “I’m just praying that I can get some money and build my own boat like I used to,” she said.

Viola Kosome at NPR


hide caption

toggle title

Viola Kosome at NPR

Lorine Otieno Abuto is a member of the No Sex for Fish cooperative. “I’m just praying that I can get some money and build my own boat like I used to,” she said.

Viola Kosome at NPR

Lorine Otieno Abuto, another HIV-positive member, said: “I’m just praying that I can get some money to build my own boat like I used to.” She dreams of her old life, when she was poor, but “I would Selling fish on the boat, at least life is not that hard.”

Her remarks are a reminder of the tough lives these women have — but somehow they have found the power to take control of their own destiny, back in 2011 and now in 2022.

For Justine Adhiambo Obura, mother of nine, including a daughter with a developmental disability, the three new boats are a welcome addition to the aftermath of horrific flooding. “We feel good,” she said. “we are very happy.”

Viola Kosome is a freelance journalist based in Kenya.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.