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At the break of dawn each day, Rehri Goth, a fishing settlement with a 400-year history in Karachi, witnesses the departure of hundreds of fishers heading out to sea. Amidst this sea of men, Hakku, with deep wrinkles and weathered skin from years under the sun, stands out as the sole woman in a community of approximately 43,000.
Before sunrise, Hakku prepares for her day, aligning her activities with the call to prayer. Packing her essential equipment, she heads to the harbor. Balancing a small boat made of thermocol, she arrives early to gain an advantage. Typically accompanied by one or both of her youngest sons, they may join her on a larger boat if they venture further into the sea. Each time, she incurs a 500 rupees ($1.80) expense for fuel.
During the summer, Hakku navigates to the tidal creek waters with mangrove forests, using chicken feet as bait to catch crabs, shrimp, and smaller fish. In winter, she sets out to sea for larger catches. Additionally, she engages in cutting cooking firewood from mangrove branches, ensuring the preservation of the vital wet portions. Hakku emphasizes their role as custodians of the mangroves.
In the afternoon, as the tide recedes, Hakku, along with her sons, visits the fish market to sell their catch. Afterward, Hakku purchases daily groceries while her daughter prepares lunch. Throughout the past 15 years, this routine has been a constant in Hakku’s life.
Hakku’s fishing journey began in her childhood, bonding with her father during fishing expeditions in Keti Bandar, a coastal town over 100 km from Karachi. Her hometown faced challenges due to the construction of dams and barrages on the Indus River, leading her family to migrate to places like Rehri Goth.
“Before my wedding, my father instructed Umar to never stop me from doing what I loved, which was fishing,” she was quoted as saying in an Al Jazeera report.
Married to Umar, a fisherman and boatmaker, Hakku and Umar built a life in Karachi. They initially thrived through fishing and Umar’s boat commissions. However, Umar’s health complications forced Hakku and her sons into the role of the sole breadwinners. Last year, financial constraints led them to sell their boat, impacting their ability to venture far into the sea for fishing.
“She works too hard,” Umar said. “All praise to God, always—but really, this past year has been very difficult for us. There have been days we’ve gone to bed on empty stomachs.”
“My wife is fearless, but I worry about her when she goes into the sea in that small boat. I want her to be safe. I’m doing this for her,” he added.
Despite challenges, Hakku dreams of building a boat for their children, investing in better-quality materials for durability. The rising costs of living, fluctuating market rates, and dwindling marine life add to their struggles. Umar, determined to provide for his family, plans to build a new boat, acknowledging the hurdles but expressing confidence in achieving their dream.