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The Dazzle of Comoros Islands

Tonight the ocean off the coast of Comoros Island’s Ngazidja Island is in a good mood. The usual ill-tempered wind is asleep, leaving behind a gentle breeze that can only stir calm waves.

With a headscarf covering her kinky hair and a kitenge wrapper covering her waist, Fatima meets the gentle waves head-on as she strides into the water. Her mind momentarily flashes back to Omar, her three year old son who is soundly sleeping at that moment. Before she left the house half an hour earlier, she tucked him in again and patted his forehead.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

Fatima is here in the Indian Ocean at 3AM not just because of Omar and his two older sisters but also because she enjoys fishing. In most parts of the world, artisanal fishery is a preserve for the men. But here in Ngazidja Island (Grand Comore) the largest of Comoros’ three islands, women are an integral part of artisanal fishery, not just as vendors but as fishers themselves.

Given the rich history of girl power in Comoros, its no wonder that Comorian women tread where other women rarely do.

Comoros 2Photo by David_Peterson

Fatima shares a name with Djoumbé Fatima, a famous Comoros queen who ruled from the tender age of five till her death. She was a shrewd politician who successfully navigated the turbulent waters of French diplomacy and interests.

As another calm wave gently massages her knees, Fatima begins the task at hand. She is accompanied with several other women from her Chindini fishing community. Although they are hunting for fish in a reef flat at low tide as opposed to the open sea like the men, they are very much part of the fishing action. Besides, as Fatima likes to say, ‘fish is fish whether it is from the deep waters or shallow waters.’

Some of Fatima’s cousins prefer reef gleaning, the practice of wading through shallow waters to collect fish that may be unlucky enough to be swimming in them.

Who runs the world?


In Comoros Islands, these are not just lyrics from Beyonce’s song. Rather, girl power in Comoros is both a historic reality and a present day fishery reality.

Grand Comore is the largest island of Comoros Islands. Known in Swahili as Ngazidja, this island is unique for its female fishers.

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Last modified on Monday, 03 October 2022 07:27

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