Sumithra K P and Saji T V are two remarkable women from Kanayi, Kannur, Kerala who have shattered stereotypes and carved a path to success in life by climbing coconut trees.
The two cousin sisters were into different jobs to earn a livelihood for the last many years. But they realised that their daily wage work wasn’t fetching them enough income and they decided to switch their jobs. When they noticed that their locality faced a severe shortage of coconut climbers, they decided to try their hands at coconut climbing which is traditionally a male bastion.
Two years have gone by after they underwent training for coconut climbing using a climber machine, now the two are the most sought-after coconut tree climbers in Kannur. They have not only defied societal norms but also found a means to earn a decent income through their fearless and determined pursuit.
“We underwent training for coconut climbing when our panchayat organised a training programme. Right from our childhood days, we used to play with our friends climbing trees just like boys. We weren’t afraid of heights. So when we heard about the training programme for coconut climbing, we decided to give it a try. We decided to explore this untapped opportunity. That decision changed our lives. We are earning twice what we used to get as a daily wage labourer. We are happy with our job. In fact, we are very busy with work. Every day, we get work and we earn a decent income,” Sumithra told “Open Digest”.
Initially things weren’t easy but the two, with perseverance and a strong will, trained rigorously honing their physical strength and climbing techniques. “Gender is never a barrier to success in this profession. We want to see more women coming into this profession. If you are physically sound, any woman can master the art of coconut tree climbing,” said Sumithra, who is married to Sasidharan and has a six-year-old son.
Both Sumithra and Saji have become role models of gender equality and women empowerment in their panchayat. As the two continue to ascend the coconut trees in Kannur, their silhouettes are a testament to their triumph over adversity. Through courage and perseverance, the two women, who are in their early 40s, have not only transformed their own lives but are paving the way for a more inclusive and progressive society.
Coconut Development Board Assistant Director Mini Mathew said the board had successfully conducted a programme to train new coconut climbers across the country. “More women are coming forward to learn coconut climbing. Out of 66500 people we have trained in the last few years, ten per cent of them are women,” she added.