Beisumpuikam village sits right on the border of Dimapur and Peren districts. If that is not tricky enough, they have the additional complexity of sharing their neighbourhood with Intangki Forest Reserve and NSCN (IM)’s Hebron Camp. Inhabited by the Zeliangrong people, there are many other factors that lend a level of rugged intricacy to their society and politics. But this does not hinder their village leaders, elders, youth, women and men to come together to address the issue of gender (in)justice in society today.
On April 16, a traditional choir of the old and young – with drum and cymbals – sang for a group of young and old women and men as they danced in the winding order of a school of fish in the streams of their land. Woven skirts emulated fields, bead necklaces and tufted ear rings gave the group layers of colour, scarf tassels ending with Jewel Beetle wings softly clicked and clacked to the dance movements. The women dancers held a Hornbill feather, one in each hand, while the young men held one in a hand, both high above their heads as they danced together.
This traditional inter-gender solidarity became part of a program that the Beisumpuikam Women’s Society collaborated with the Sisterhood Network on to strengthen their community through the equal participation of women and men in political, economic and social decision making. The community feast that followed the dance was also organized by women and men of the village to commemorate the successful completion of one of the many stages of the Land Feminist Participatory Action Research that the Sisterhood Network had initiated in the village.
The village council chairperson showed a leadership quality rarely seen in those who head some of the larger, richer, so-called forward, community villages. Tadibe encouraged people at the program to cooperate and learn the most from what the resource persons had to offer and work in concert to strengthen the future of the village. Acknowledging that gender justice is an issue to be addressed together, and in the need for change, is a step that few village leaders have been able to take. In no small part, this must have contributed to Eke, a young man from the village, to help organize a program that seeks to bring women at par with men in land rights and governance.
Acetle, Secretary of the Women’s Society, spoke for the first time in her life in a public gathering of her village counterparts at the Beisumpuikam Baptist Church where the meeting took place, miraculously prayed over by both the Presbyterian and Baptist pastors of the village. This level of tolerance and willingness to dialogue around a deeply polarized subject like gender required numerous and strategic focus group discussions, trainings and activities that brought people together as part of the discourse, one that they set for themselves to take forward.
One can only hope that this spirit of solidarity and dialogue pushes its way through to other villages and urban councils to develop a space for progress based on justice, equality, humanism and self-determination of all genders.
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