If you say in public or express on social media platforms that Naga society discriminates against women, scores of people will in all likelihood try to prove you wrong by comparing the status of women in the state to those in other Indian states or elsewhere. They will argue that Naga women get equal opportunities as their male counterparts in all fields, including education and come up with a list of successful women to prove their point. Yes, there are many hard working and talented Naga women who have climbed the ladders of success and made everyone proud by breaking the glass ceiling. And yes, social evils like dowry system and female foeticide are not heard of in Naga society. Kudos to that. But faring a little better than some communities in terms of gender equality index doesn’t mean women have been treated equally. The fact remains that women across the world face some sort of discrimination and inequality irrespective of the place they come from. Sensing the need to strike a balance between men and women in professional and social sectors, the United Nations has chosen #BalanceForBetter as the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. Coincidentally, Naga society lags behind others when it comes to striking a balance between men and women in professional and social spheres. India has produced a female president and prime minister but when was the last time you heard of a Naga woman being inducted into village council?
Men’s dominance in civil society organisations is evident and Nagaland is perhaps the only state in the country that hasn’t produced even a single female legislator in its history. There is no dearth of capable female leaders in the state but they have been kept away from decision-making bodies, right from the village level to the state legislative assembly, for so long that it is difficult to break the system today though there is no law barring women from taking up leadership. Women need more than just encouragement and rhetoric. If the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other weaker sections of the society deserve special provision from the central government, women folk in our society surely deserve extra push to join the mainstream. Change will take place only if people stop living in denial and accept the fact that Naga women have been deprived of their rights for too long. Celebrating International Women’s Day will be meaningless if we turn a blind eye to issues like leadership, change of religion after marriage, alimony, inheritance rights etc. that Naga women are facing even today.