GUY-02: Rockstone Women- Fishing for life
Faizool Deo Guyana Chronicle - Georgetown agosto 2006
On Mildred Piget’s face, you see a tired look, frustrated with life, wrinkled with hardship, a simple woman who accepts that life has thrown some curve balls in her direction.
She is one of about 300 persons living in the community of Rockstone in Region 10, and one of many women who ply their trade on the nearby waterways. She catches fish for a living! Not only the edible ones, but those meant for the aquarium trade, as well. It takes knowledge, skills and a lot of patience to do her job— but she is becoming weary with time.
Rockstone, a little less than 20 miles from Linden, would be enchanting to any outsider; it has an ambiance of tranquility that takes you from the noise and filth of the city to the peace and quiet that exist in most rural areas.
It is no ordinary community though; it has the flora and fauna that people would only read about, which translate every area into a beautiful mystery - a mystery that happily bewilders you.
For Mildred and so many others it is home, but they don’t see all the glamour of the area, they see hardship.
The location, geography and number of inhabitants have made the area essentially a fishing community with very little else to do. The men try their hand at small scale logging and some help with the fishing, but essentially if they want to make a living they leave their wives and children and head out of the community.
With so many people fishing there is little that can be sold at home, so the women work by orders from outside buyers who want mostly the aquarium fishes at a very cheap price.
"What are we to do?" Audrey Simian, a resident who has lived there for 25 years asked. "Its either we work or starve!"
They wake up early in the morning, leave with their small boats, sometimes camping out the entire day in order to reach the demand.
"We get weary fast, paddling is very hard," Audrey explained. Even after all this hard work, it does not always pay off in the end. They face the predicament of the van not turning up, resulting in the death of their catch.
The rain also plays a big part in restricting the women from their work, since it floods the rivers and forces the fishes out of their regular location.
When we visited last week, it was raining and the ladies were at a standstill.
"This is one problem we are faced with," Audrey pointed out, but the water has gone down tremendously and some feel that they have seen the worst of it— for now.
Another amazing fact about Rockstone is the number of girls born into the families. They are many and some have already journeyed on the waterways with their mothers.
But this is one job that the some families don’t want to pass on to their children. "We can’t do anything better, but we want better for our children," Audrey said, adding "we would not like our daughters to follow our pattern, we are very poor here."
Another woman, Claudette Edwards has seven daughters and a son. The eldest, 15, is doing domestic work in the city. She is trying hard to push her children and give them "a proper education."
But even though a school does exist, how many dreams will be realised?
It was reveled that children sometimes are absent from school, only to help their family.
Claudette’s second daughter is 14-years-old and she is somewhat the woman of the house. She was cooking lunch when I first saw her, and amidst the bubbling exuberance of her younger siblings she stood resolute, sporting a scar on her right hand - a scar that came from her early years in the kitchen.
Rockstone’s waterways teem with fishes to such an extent that they were the feature of National Geographic’s "Catfish Hunters" in 2003. In an effort to promote the area and bring new employment opportunities to the Rockstone people, the Linden Economic Advancement Project (LEAP) in conjunction with Region 10 Tourism Development Association and the Rockstone Community Development Council are planning a Fish Festival this September.
This initial activity will be for two days September 23-24, with the second day benefiting the community and the first day benefiting Linden.
This activity will hopefully not only make locals and tourists aware of the area in September, but all year round.
This festival will see the sale of edible and aquarium fishes; it would also create employment for the men who prove to be excellent guides of the surrounding waterways and the lands including the exotic Gluck Island.
A guest house can also be set up in Rockstone according to officials of LEAP, which if channeled in the right way can attract the right people to their community.
Some of the residents of Rockstone are hoping that this festival can bring much needed finances to their community. One man, Sylvan Williams, who incidentally has four daughters and a boy, is waiting for the time to near to pick his bitter cassava for his wife to make indigenous beverages.
Mildred and the other women are hoping that the festival can ease their constant rowing and give them an opportunity to have a comfortable life in the place they have called home for so many years, Rockstone.