‘But Naga society is still reluctant to reform traditionally established norms to elevate status of women’
Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 14: In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of studies on women in Nagaland through which questions have been raised, discussed, and debated on the role of women in the state.
The nature of the social structures and practices in Nagaland has had a huge effect on women’s sense of insecurity and feelings of inferiority, according to the ‘Baseline Survey on Social, Economic & Political Empowerment of Women in Nagaland’ released earlier this year by the Nagaland State Commission for Women (NSCW).
The NSCW, in its survey report, states: “Naga women, today, have considerable amount of individual and social freedom, security, and respect; nevertheless, she is yet to experience life on an equal footing with men. The very nature of patriarchy in Nagaland renders women voiceless. Women are ignored in all important decision making processes. She may be the homemaker, but the father is the head of the family and the final decider within the family circle.
“The economy of the state is predominately agriculture (sic) with majority of the population living in rural areas. 70% of the population derives their livelihood from agriculture. A large number of women in Nagaland are cultivators. A substantial number of them are engaged in informal trading activities and they comprise the majority of the market stallholders and vendors selling vegetables and indigenous produce.”
These women, according to the commission, are not only independent of their male counterparts, but also the major source of support to their families. Few women have accessed the government schemes, economic credits and opportunities provided to women to improve their economic status, it stated.
“Society readily welcomes these additional contributions from the women to support their families; however, the Naga society is still reluctant to bring about reforms in the traditionally established norms to elevate women’s status,” the report reads.
The survey also draws attention to the village administration: that every village in Nagaland is administered by the village council who take full responsibility of political, social, and economic issues. “Each village has its own set of customary laws. The people in the villages maintain their social organisations with the guidance of the customary laws. These customary laws and practices define the status of women. Naga women do have privileges and opportunities, but face numbers of social, cultural, and political limitations.”
Also, the survey notes that “women in Nagaland are very poorly represented at all levels of formal decision making processes”.
The United Nations (UN) has declared October 15 as ‘International Day of Rural Women’. According to the UN, the crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, has been increasingly recognised.
It acknowledges that “women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.”
Women farmers, it further states, may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts; but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agri food chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.
According to a research presented by Dr. Adani Ngullie, an assistant professor of History at Unity College, Dimapur during a recent seminar, there are many educated Naga women whose economic status have seen improvement; however, the economic status of Naga women as a collective has not seen much improvement.
Despite the general assumption that there is no gender discrimination in a patriarchal Naga society, Naga women are still struggling to find their place in decision making bodies and in inheritance of parental properties, she had expressed.
According to Ngullie, though some parents gifts their daughters acquired properties, this was not generally practised and yet to be legalised; and this practice has not yet reached the rural areas or ‘villages where women are poor, illiterate and economically not sound.’