Satoli Z Swu joins rising tide of Naga women in leadership

Satoli Z Swu

Satoli Z Swu

Morung Express News
Kohima | August 4

Of late Naga women have been making indelible marks in all aspects of lives - silently taking the lead to the new realities and challenges and treading their path towards success.

Creating another history is sixty-three years old Satoli Z Swu who has been elected as the village chief of Kiyevi village and given the Gaonbura’s Red Shawl at a dedicatory prayer on August 3.

Swu was married to late Zheshito Swu on May 23, 1981 and together, they have six children. Her husband was the village chief for 15 years and also the former Western Sumi Hoho president, who unfortunately passed away on June 3, 2023.

A retired Government primary teacher from 1983-2019, she has served society and the church in various capacities.

Swu has served as the women executive member of the Western Sumi Baptist Akukuhou Kuqhakulu (WSBAK) from 1994-2000, 2004-2008 and re-elected in 2023; was the Cultural Secretary of the Western Sumi Totimi Hoho (WSTH) from 2006-2012 and the President of the Sumi Totimi Loka, Kiyevi from 2002 till date.

Narrating to The Morung Express how the baton of the village chief was passed on to her, Swu said following her husband’s demise and as per the Sumi customary practice of hereditary Kingship, the next village chief had to be decided.

Accordingly, the male family members in the meeting had, initially chosen her brother-in-law (husband’s younger brother), who however, declined the responsibility and requested the Swu should take over.

Swu said she initially declined when her name was proposed owing to the huge responsibility, however, the family was firm in their decision, and she accepted it humbly.

However, she added that even if the family had agreed, it would not be appropriate without the consent of the village people. Fortunately, the village people consensually agreed and placed their trust and confidence on her leadership.

While admitting the huge responsibility that was placed upon her, Swu said she is encouraged by their ‘trust and confidence’ and remarked “I am not that educated, but as long as God is with me and am healthy I will give my best to serve my people.”

Following her conferment as the Village Chief, words of encouragement have been pouring in as well as negative remarks from people, who were uncomfortable with the thought of a woman chieftainship. However, unaffected by what others think, Swu commented “those remarks are due to their ignorance, and I will not be so bothered by it.”

She believes that men and women were created the same by God, except for some physical differences. Citing some examples, Swu pointed out how women in the present time, especially Naga women have managed to come out from the confines of their homes, and are doing exceedingly well, if not, better than men wherever they are placed.

When asked about her priority as the chief of the village, Swu said she desires to bring peace between the Sumi and the Zeliang communities over a four decade old boundary issue. “I am not saying I can do it, but I want to try it and I hope I can” she said. Validating her optimism she added, “there are some things which women can do where men can’t and vice versa, and particularly, in conflict and peace process, women are like cool water if we can humbly make use of the God-gifted endowment.’

Woman chieftains in the Sumi community date back to somewhere in the 1940s with Teli Kiba, the first woman GB from Ighanumi village, Pughoboto area.

Subsequently, as per available records, the other women chieftain were Hotoli (Sukhato Village, Western Sumi); Toheli (S.Hetoi Village, Western Sumi) and Toholi (Pukhato Village, Western Sumi)

Women have been involved in shaping the societies throughout history, and over the years have managed to come out breaking barriers, stereotypes, and gender-based prejudices to emerge as leaders, fighters, and agents of change. 

It has been witnessed that Naga women, today have become more visible and vocal occupying spaces that were previously inaccessible.