In the south Goan city of Margao is a rare community of women who may be the last of their long lineage. The women porters of Goa, locally called Bhadels have been carrying loads to earn their livelihood for centuries now. They travel from their villages nearby Margoa to start their work around 8 or 10 am and go back home in the evening by .30. Throughout the day they carry loads from a few shopping bags to 50kg onwards of loads for shopkeepers and other people who need moving, making around 50-200 rupees every day.
The Bhadels spend the whole day lifting heavy loads on their heads and rest during two hours when the market closes for lunch. The women carry their lunch along and can be seen having a quick shut eye before resuming work. Over the years, they have become a symbol of respect and faith. Shopkeepers even trust them with their money and shops.
But with rising commercialisation and development, these women have been facing stiff competition from young men who have found their way to Goa. Opening of railways and other travel routes have allowed men to pour in and offer better services at a cheaper rate. And as robust as these women are, there is no one to take their place. These women who almost all of them are above the age of 50 say that their daughters and daughter in laws having studied in schools prefer working in offices than hauling heavy objects. Times change and so will this, as these women hardened over the years will live off doing what they dedicated their lives to while the next generation will manage to find better options of survival.
The government of Goa in recognition of their services gave a one-time honorarium of Rs.25000/- to these women in 2011 commemorating 50 ears of liberation from the Portuguese rule. Although there are options of pensions from the government for senior citizens but it doesn’t seem these self sustaining women have availed for it. These hard working women are a symbol of our society that women have since ages been strong enough to live a life on their terms. They are a source of inspiration to young girls and women all over.