Water women of the world Part 1

Across the world, women are defying stereotypes; working in the water, teaching children to swim, lifeguarding beaches, and saving lives. Here we meet four of the these dynamic water women.

Naomi Krauzig from Hellenic Rescue Team

Photo: Jane Labous                

The Rescuer: Naomi Krauzig

Hellenic Rescue Team, Lesvos, Greece

I live on the island of Lesvos, I’m a student and I study here. I got involved with the Hellenic Rescue Team because 5 years ago I tried to rescue a man who drowned, but unfortunately I wasn't successful. So I wanted to do something about it.

After that I saw a refugee mother arriving with a 1-day-old baby, which she had given birth to on the boat, and it was something that stayed on my mind. So I came down here to the marina and asked what the Hellenic Rescue Team was doing, if I could join them, and about the training they do.

We respond to be ready to leave in 30 minutes. So when we get a call, in 30 minutes we must be on the sea. Usually we have a crucial time of 1 hour to say we can find a person in the water. Because you don’t know if the person is in a boat, in the water, if they are wearing a life jacket or not. So you have to plan how to find that person, and how to rescue him or her.

We have as our chief a woman, and she is a very strong character. She shows the men what to do! So she’s someone to look up to. So I guess you say to yourself: ‘I can do something, I will do something.’ It’s not all about muscles all the time. It’s about the character, the strength you have inside.

The Swimming Teacher: Halima Ali Haji

Panje Project, Zanzibar

I became a teacher because in the past it seemed like most of the people who were drowning were women, when travelling and fishing. I wanted to be able to teach others how to protect themselves from that.

So I learned to swim with Panje, then I became a community educator, raising awareness of water safety in classroom lessons. At last I became a swimming teacher in August 2016. My family were supportive because they could tell people: ‘Our daughter is getting safety education and helping others.’

If there are women who can’t swim, they should be taught. My message to all my girls is to listen and study well, because swimming will help them in future – just look at me!

I’m proud of my job, because us women have become famous across Zanzibar for being swimming teachers. In the whole of Zanzibar, they only make us in Nungwi!

The Lifeguard: Hannah Dixon

RNLI Lifeguard, UK

My name’s Hannah and I’m a senior RNLI lifeguard in the Newquay/Padstow area. I used to swim competitively when I was younger. When I finished swimming, I started surf lifesaving. When I was 16 I did my lifeguard qualification, and I got a job as a lifeguard when I was 18.

I try and do some sort of training every day, whether that’s in the water, on the rescue board, a sea swim or going running along the beach. On a typical day, when we arrive at the beach, the first thing a lifeguard does is look at the water and conditions, for where you’re going to set up your red and yellow flags, and then you start patrolling. But to be honest, there is no such thing as a typical day on the beach!

One of the biggest parts of our job is educating people about the ocean, trying to explain where it’s dangerous, and why it’s dangerous. We get a lot of surf down in Cornwall. Some days when it looks safe, it’s not at all safe, so you have to go between the flags and listen to the lifeguard.

If you're doing your job well, hopefully you don’t have to go in and rescue someone. But the sea is a very unpredictable place, so anything can happen. You have to be ready to go. A few times, if I hadn’t been on the beach, someone would have drowned.

It makes me feel very proud to say I’ve saved a life. There’s no better feeling than helping somebody who’s in trouble.

The Lifeguard: Soda Camera

Dakar Olympic Pool, Senegal

My name is Soda Camera and I have been a lifeguard for Dakar City, at the Olympic Swimming Pool of Dakar, for 14 years. I originally worked as a lifeguard at the beach, but I’ve worked at the pool since 2013. Lifeguarding is a job I love so much.

I started swimming when I was 6 or 7 years old. When I was a child, I lived on Gorée Island. I grew up there next to the sea. I always did a lot of sport, football, taekwondo. Lots of sport, it’s in my blood. I taught myself to swim.

I’ve been freestyle open swimming champion of Senegal several times. I’ve won the Dakar Gorée swim six times. I was seven times champion of Senegal in four strokes – butterfly, crawl, breaststroke, back stroke. Now I give swimming lessons to others. I’ve taught quite a few people. A few schools come to the pool for lessons and we teach the kids to swim.

It’s not difficult to be a female lifeguard here. We women are used to training, swimming, doing lots of sport. But yes, it’s true that in Senegal there aren't many women who pursue this career. Because we say it’s a profession for boys, a profession for men. My first training in lifeguarding was in 1998. I was the only woman among all the men – 44 men and one girl: me!

But me, I don’t say that it’s a man’s job. I always say to myself: ‘You’ve got to try to progress. If you see an opportunity to learn more, take it. Always learn.’ It's so important to have women lifeguards here in Senegal.

In 2013, we trained with the RNLI. We learned a lot about lifesaving techniques. The techniques we had, we learned in 1998, so we were learning new techniques. Every year, every 2 years, lifesaving techniques change.

Here in Senegal, we have many drownings. But there have been fewer in the last 5 years, because there are lifeguards on the beaches. Also, the drownings happen at what we call ‘banned beaches’ – because in Senegal, banned, dangerous beaches are the most crowded. And many accidents happen on these beaches.

As a lifeguard, I love it! I adore it! I give 100% to my work.

Interviews conducted by Jane Labous, James Labous, Aram Atkinson and Philly Byrde

SwimSafe Bangladesh and Panje Project projects are financially supported by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.

You can meet more inspirational lifesavers in part 2 of our 'Water women of the world' feature here.

Find out more about how the RNLI is working with partners to prevent drowning around the world.