Breaking the gender barrier

Transcending the limits set by a patriarchal society is a challenging task, but women have done it time and again and proved themselves. Likewise, Sowmya H S, a 37-year-old mother from Huchhanahalli of Tumakuru district, has proven her mettle and gone beyond the barriers to achieve her dreams. She is one of the first women whitewater rescue technicians in India. She is also a full-time water sports instructor and an aqua adventure tourism company entrepreneur.

In 2006, after completing her studies, Sowmya married Manjunath M R who runs the Ace Paddlers Company, which promotes adventure tourism in South India. It arranges whitewater rafting for adventure lovers in Barpole, Kodagu district, and other rivers.

Manjunath and Sowmya have been spending a part of their revenue on youth empowerment and awareness programmes. They have organised many free training camps and workshops for the youth and school children on environment conservation, wildlife protection, waste management and importance of renewable energy.

Sowmya alone has led several such camps organised under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan with the support from the Department of Youth Service & Sports. Till date, more than 4,000 children and youth including many special children have availed her guidance on various adventurous activities.

In her programmes, she trains the participants to swim, save people from drowning and set up tents, apart from training them in water sports and other basic rescue and safety measures. These activities are conducted in various places such as Vani Vilas Sagar in Chitradurga district, Gorur Reservoir near Hassan, Krishna Raja Sagara dam in Mysuru and other places. Sowmya also organises commercial, corporate and public awareness programmes and has taken part in rafting in various rivers like Ganga, Cauvery, Sitanadi, Barpole, Bhadra, Bhote Koshi in Tibet and Trishuli in Nepal.

Sharing her experience, she says, “Eleven years ago, when I met my husband, he had told me that he is an adventure sports’ instructor and runs a company, and explained that he takes part in river rafting, trekking, camping etc. But, I had no clue about these adventurous activities.”

This soon changed. “We had gone on a kayaking trip in River Varahi. From there my new journey as a learner and explorer began. I didn’t even know swimming. But, my love for nature encouraged me to learn swimming, rafting and trekking. I completed a course to get certified as a whitewater rescue technician in 2007,’’ she adds. 

In 2016, she stayed in Nepal for four months to hone her skills in the rivers and she was the only woman in that camp. She has also ridden the jet ski for several years in Mysuru during Dasara, National Youth Festival in Mangaluru, and other cultural events held in various parts of the State.

Sowmya conducted her first wilderness camp in Anejhari Nature Camp in Kollur, without electricity and basic facilities. The forest was thick and had scorpions, snakes and was on the banks of River Souparnika in Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary. She wants to form a women’s kayaking team someday. She says her mother and husband inspire and support her endeavours.

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Breaking the gender barrier

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