This Women’s Day, most of the women at National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) Station 16, will be serving the community instead of taking the day off to enjoy the national holiday. The women will be patrolling the Strandfontein beach.
“This is what we do,” the women from NSRI Station 16 said when asked how they would celebrate the day. These women are proof that lifesaving, and saving lives, is not necessarily something men are better at than women.
The women at Station 16 see gender as no differentiator. “We, as females, are also able and fit to save lives out at sea,” said Keena Swartbooi, crew member. Swartbooi was a lifeguard candidate at Strandfontein Surf Lifesaving Club when she first became interested in NSRI.
“What drew me to the service is the fact that in September 2015, I lost a family member to the ocean and the Hermanus NSRI crew were the ones that recovered his body, as well as other casualties,” said Swartbooi.
“This flamed my passion for wanting to join the NSRI and save lives because they gave us a chance to at least mourn the death of my uncle and have a burial ceremony. I also realized that I also want to be able to give back to the community in serving with the NSRI crew,” she explained.
Michaela Leo, Matric pupil, said: “As women, we are generally seen as the ‘inferior gender’ when it comes to physical work. However, that is just a mindset. I would encourage more women to volunteer and join our rescue team because it not only about physical strength but how driven you are to want to make a difference or impact in society,” she said.
Bliqees Kyzer grew up on the beach and has a Class 4 coxswain, which allows her to operate and pilot rescue vessels with a single motor and no navigational lights. Her father, Clint Abrahams, was involved with Sea Rescue, while she and her siblings did lifesaving.“I always had a passion to help people and what better capacity to fulfil that role than in the maritime application,”
Charnelle Hare said: “I’ve always wanted to be a part of something great. I’ve always been a humanitarian, but it’s so much more than just a word. Saving lives and being able to hopefully give someone a second chance at life is beyond extraordinary.”
With 11 women ranging in age from 17 to over 50, Station 16 has one of the largest female contingents of any NSRI base in South Africa. The women at Station 16 perform a wide variety of duties, from checklists, radio communications and maintenance of vessels to heading out to sea to save people in distress.
They have all have completed the intensive NSRI basic training before becoming permanent members and have gone to acquire additional skills.