Participants at a discussion on ‘Women in decision making’ held at Don Bosco’s AIDA in Dimapur on October 13. (Morung Photo)
Women’s network discusses barriers to & successes in equal gender participation
Morung Express News
Dimapur | October 14
“I bring my children up as human beings, each a mix of the feminine and masculine.”
Nungshirenla is the former president of the Naga Women’s Hoho, Dimapur (NWHD) and now an advisor to it. On Saturday morning, October 13, she was speaking about the importance of women’s participation in decision making at a meeting organized at Don Bosco’s AIDA here by a network called Women in Governance (WinG).
Education at home is a primary factor. Children need to stop inheriting gendered roles that limits the potential of all human beings, whether female or male—“we need to learn what we can be, not simply what we should be.”
It is these historically predefined roles that have led to Naga women being “diplomatically suppressed,” the leader noted, raising the heat of her argument. Very politely, Naga women are often told that men do everything for them, why do they need political power?
Women need political and economic power to develop at par with men; to have the equal right to decide on the Naga future. “We represent 50 percent of the society and we need 50 percent rights to decision making,” she asserted, calling for women to be brought in as leaders of Naga apex bodies that represent the people.
The society at large has to encourage this. “Women are often jeered at and discouraged from joining decision making bodies,” noted a discussion participant, Alice Kamei. “As a working woman, people continue to make comments on my hair, clothes, late hours debilitating my ability to freely participate as an equal in public life,” she said, observing this to be an attempt to control the body and life of women, hassles that men are rarely subject to.
In the face of such tides, Kanili Kinilimi, one of the founders and chairperson of the Sematila Village/Urban Council, showed the group a chink of hope. Battling patriarchal opposition to academic learning among women in the 1970s, she not just became the first woman from the Sümi community to acquire a master’s degree, she also took over the helm of affairs when her community faced conflict, later taking over the governance of the Sematila Council.
Kinilimi is an executive member of the Dimapur Urban Council Chairpersons Federation, the only woman among 92 representatives; her interventions have helped women and men understand the significance of women’s participation in a society’s public life.
“Be the first responder whenever society faces a crisis. That is your responsibility as a leader,” she said while encouraging women and recalling her own journey of developing Sematila, with her team, from scratch into a successful urban colony today.
A responsibility that national awardee and paralegal volunteer, NK Keny, has taken head on. Dimapur remains a squalor refusing to be defined by its successes; here, women take part in its dark underbelly of human trafficking as much as they become victims of it. Few people like Keny are affecting change in the sector. She works to rescue women and children from human trafficking but also to end the illegal practice that includes sexual exploitation, sex tourism, pornography, begging, drug smuggling, domestic slavery etc. “Women’s groups and associations need to be at the forefront of plugging trafficking but we get the most support from men,” informed Keny.
Her point brought to attention the fact that it is important to forefront gender issues in Naga society but also make men stakeholders in formulating a gender just society.