On December 7, the North East Network (NEN) in Chizami, Nagaland organized an experience sharing and consultative workshop on ‘Single Women – an intersectional identity’ in Kohima that brought together representatives from grassroots women organizations, NGOs and Nagaland State Resource Centre for Women.
Three women’s organizations—Ruzazho Women Society, Therutsuswu Women Society from Phek district and Yimchungberu Arihako, Shamator Town—shared a report they prepared, through the support of the NEN, titled ‘challenges and issues of single women’.
‘Single women’ are women who are unmarried, divorced or widowed and face unique challenges in life. The three organizations mapped single women households in their areas and collected data on the challenges they face; these challenges include issues of legal and customary rights, livelihoods and violence.
This violence could be to an extent where Naga women lose the custody of their children when faced with a divorce or are denied access to acquired property when a husband dies. With younger single women remaining more vulnerable to this form of social violence, single women of all age groups are faced with the lack of access to income, sources of livelihood, proper housing and various government schemes.
But this is not the bane of Naga women in rural areas alone.
At her book launch in Dimapur on December 11, writer, poet and journalist, Monalisa Changkija, revealed the trauma she, and her daughters, had to go through on losing her husband.
“Besides going through the agony of the loss of my husband last November, my daughters and I also had to undergo the kind of “cultural and customary” victimization that most Ao women without sons and brothers suffer. This included blatant falsehoods, insinuations and deliberate character-assassination. My daughters and I also had to undergo intimidation and harassment. Although throughout our ordeal a few cousins-in-law, a lot of friends and my neighbours stood by us, the pressure, stress and tension we suffered and endured are indescribable and inexplicable ~ all of which I suffered and endured without even my own flesh and blood standing by me. As a result, I was down to my lowest hence my journalistic and creative works suffered ~ in fact, I stopped working and I was allowing myself to go to seed,” she narrated.
This corroborates with the testimonies shared at the NEN meeting by single women from Phek and Tuensang districts. While the church and a few others stand up to help in the face of “intimidation and harassment,” the collapse of a community structure to aid and support single women has aggravated the risks they face in being single with or without choice on the matter.
There is a long way to go before cultural and customary practices recognize the human rights of single women but with the 16 days of activism to end violence against women ending on December 10, International Human Rights Day, it is time for the society and State to start recognizing ‘single women’ as a category that faces distinct challenges that need distinct attention and action if they are to be included in the development of the society and the State.
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