Naga Women’s Worth

March 8, 2011 was commemorated across the globe as the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. In Nagaland, several programmes were held to mark the occasion. What was noticeable this year was that several local churches also joined in by conducting special programmes. Today there is greater awareness on the rights and issues concerning women. In the Naga context, we need to be proud of the fact that our women are much better off in every respect even though our society is known for its patriarchal set-up. In terms of our customary law and traditional practices, our women do not have equal rights and privileges as enjoyed by the men folk. However women’s place in Naga society is very much revered and honoured. There is however some area of concern which needs to be looked into so that Naga women can live a life of dignity as co-partners. The increasing crime and violence against our women is a cause for concern and needs to be tackled collectively. There is also a strong case for strengthening customary laws so that women get justice, which the present system is not delivering. And since women constitute almost 50% of the State’s population, efforts at nation building would have to take into consideration in full measure and proper perspective, the role and contribution of women in the noble task of the State’s development.
As compared to other states we can claim that the status of women is much better off. According to the State Human Development Report 2004, Nagaland does not conform to the general perception of women’s status in India. Apart from traditional practices that have generally cared for women and the girl child, the State has successful achievements in the fields of literacy, increasing sex ratio, health and entrepreneur development. However one area of concern that keeps coming up in our discussion on women issue is their exclusion from decision making processes. And in this sense Naga women have played a limited role in institutional politics. Therefore, much more attention needs to be given for inclusion of women in decision making and their participation at the policy formulation levels. In this regard, there is a strong clamour for women reservation of 33% in elected bodies whether it is the local councils, State legislature or Parliament. Speaking from the Naga context, it is true that because of the traditional role assigned to women, there has been resistance to change, especially by the menfolk.
However we should be proud of the fact that Naga women have come to the fore in almost all fields not through quota like charity but through their own merit. In fact women are doing much better in all areas of activities. Their contribution in the field of social welfare is also noteworthy. It is now well established that Naga women are hard working, willing to take hardships, efficient and in the habit of putting heart and soul in whatever they undertake. By their sincerity they are now winning laurels in art, literature, philosophy, music, painting, science, administration and medicine. Naga women are indeed playing their part in bringing change and reformation in our society. Rather than quotas, our women should be given equal opportunity to pursue their dreams and careers besides ensuring that their rights are safeguarded. Naga women are uniquely placed as the pillar and support of our family institution and their role of home makers continue to remain relevant and indispensable for the future good of our Naga society. Much responsibility therefore lies with them. Shouting over the top for women’s right alone will not solve our social problems. What will be required is continuity and change in the roles assigned to women.