Express message service
BHOPAL: The big cat in the tiger state of the country ‘Madhya Pradesh is no longer a source of income only for tribal men, as fair sex has also donned the coat of travel guides for the priceless look at tigers.
Kanha Tiger Reserve National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve National Park now have 24 female guides to accompany and guide wildlife enthusiasts in the core areas.
While 13 of the 150 leaders in the Kanha Tiger Reserve are women, 11 out of 83 leaders in the Pench Tiger Reserve are women. The forestry department is also working to introduce female guides to the Panchmarhi hotspot for hill tourism in the Satpura Tiger Reserve.
Most of the female guides, between the ages of 25 and 35, are wives or sisters of the male forest staff, particularly the drivers of the vehicles that transport tourists to different parts of the core area of the two tiger reserves.
Interestingly, two of the 13 female guides who lead the tourists in the 940 km² core area of the Kanha Tiger Reserve are real sisters Seema and Reshma.
While the 31-year-old mother of two is the first group of registered and trained female guides who started their work in 2011 after completing her studies, sister Reshma, who is five years younger than her, is a recently passed out art graduate who, like her older sister, wants now they make this profession their permanent calling.
“We are natives of Balaghats Mukki Village, which is in the heart of the reserve. We grew up listening to the screams of wild animals, including tigers. Growing up with animals has even endowed us with the rare ability to identify the genre of different birds just by their unique chirping tones. Our connection to Kanha Tiger Reserve National Park is very old as our brother drove the Gypsy SUV there. Seema’s husband is a leader just like her, ”Resham said.
Reshma, who started work in 2018, was one of ten women who, with the help of the Ministry of Forestry, founded a self-help group in the reserve national park and ran a canteen for tourists.
“In view of our great interest in leadership, the forest authorities trained us for a month. After that we showed up for an exam and an interview. Only me and Sweta Uike were recruited as leaders like Seema and her colleague Pramila Dhurve. Since then, we’ve made between 1 and 1.25 rupees in every nine-month tourist season (October to June) supporting our families and their futures, ”Reshma said.
And it is not only the daughters of the Mukki village in the Balaghat district, but also the 25-year-old Sweta Uike, the daughter-in-law of the same village, who entered this profession.
“We were part of a self-help group (SHGs) and ran a canteen in 2017, but trained as guides a year later. Since then, I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with my Gyspy driver husband to earn over Rs 2 lakh every nine month tourist season, ”Sweta said proudly.
And it’s not just the female leaders, but also the better halves of their gypsy drivers who think of a financially secure future because their wives also turn to as working family members. “We don’t have a lot of land to farm on. Until 2010, I was the only earning member who earned 50,000 to 60,000 rupees during the nine month tourist season using the gypsy vehicles in the Reserve National Park. In 2011, my wife Pramila joined as a women’s guide, only to quit the job three years later and become an Anganwadi mini-worker. But she returned to the same job in 2018 and now earns more than double what I make in the same tourist season, ”said Pritam Dhurve, driver of a gypsy vehicle.
Impressed by the commitment of the female guides to their profession, the administration in both tiger reserve national parks is considering increasing the number of female guides.
“We are reviewing the services of all 150 guides in our Tiger Reserve National Park and have found that some male guides do not work regularly or do not commit to work. We could deregister such leaders in the future and replace them with better trained female leaders as many more of them rarely enter the profession. For us, this is a real empowerment for tribal women, ”said SK Singh, Field Director of Kanha Tiger Reserve.