Morung Express News
Dimapur | February 9
For all its attempts to be seen as a modern society, Nagaland has never seen a woman being elected into the state legislative assembly. The only time the state saw a woman legislator was in 1977 when Rano M. Shaiza defeated then Chief Minister Hokishe Sema to be elected as Member of Parliament to the Lok Sabha.
Since then, a handful of women have intermittently contested the state assembly elections unsuccessfully.
However, this year, five women are hoping to change things and break the status quo. The five will be taking part in the coming Nagaland State Assembly elections which goes to poll on February 27.
Two recurring refrain among the five women are Nagaland’s collapsing infrastructure (for example, the disintegrating roads) and the not so appealing unemployment scenario.
They perceive the crumbling infrastructure as something where the men have gone wrong and they are hoping for a chance to prove their worth.
“Men do not perform,” says Rhakila, 66 years, who will be contesting from Tuensang Sadar II on BJP ticket. She is up against a formidable opponent in the present Minister, Kejong Chang and three other candidates, but Rhakila is unperturbed and confident.
“I will do what he has not done,” she says blaming the incumbent legislator of not doing enough for the constituency.
“I will show by action,” Rhakila asserts.
For Rekha Rose Dukru, women and youth need to start being part of policy making. “Our society is still not used to hearing about a woman and a youth candidate which poses double challenge for me since I am young and I am a woman,” the 35-year old says.
Rose, who is contesting as an Independent candidate from Chizami, strongly believes that women will be sincere and that women and youngster combine will make a lot of difference in the 60-member house.
Unfazed by her 5 male opponents – which includes the incumbent Deo Nukhu – Rose has a clear idea about what she wants to do if elected.
As someone with a farming background, she says she will give priority to farming. “Farming is one sector we can really develop. When we take care of the farming sector, we are taking care of the parents and farmers in the grassroots,” she notes.
“Another sector is tourism. Our topography is very interesting and there is so much scope for tourism to grow,” she adds.
Wedie-ü Kronu (27), one of the youngest contestants, agrees with Rose in that women and youth need representation in policy making bodies.
A vocal campaigner against corruption with the Nagaland Public Rights Awareness and Action Forum (NPRAAF), Kronu says that she is entering politics to bring change to the system. “Otherwise it is very difficult to clean the corruption,” she insists.
Contesting as a candidate of the National People’s Party (NPP) from Dimapur III Assembly Constituency, Kronu faces two seasoned politicians in MLA Tokheho Yeptho (NDPP) and former MLA Azheto Zhimomi (NPF).
But Kronu remains “very confident” that she will get a chance to represent the people of Dimapur III reasoning that her opponents have already been in power “but we haven’t seen any change”.
Another NPP woman candidate in the fray is Dr. K. Mangyangpula Chang, 45, who is contesting from Noksen Assembly Constituency – the first ever woman contestant in the constituency.
An MD in Alternative Medicine, Dr. Mangyangpula Chang says her focus is on women empowerment. However, there are other pressing issues as well. “Our constituency is going to be 50 years old but our ground reality is horrible,” she says and laments the lack of proper roads, the existence of just one PHC, and the lone high school which was downgraded.
Standing in her way is incumbent CM Chang and three others but Apu, as she is also known, says that “Noksen is 100% ready for a woman leader”.
For Awan Konyak, the priority would be to plug lapses in implementation of schemes and ensuring that the right programmes reach the right people with functional and transparent mechanisms.
Daughter of the late Nyiewang Konyak, a former Minister, Awan insists that she is not in the fray to cash in on her father’s name.
She, however, adds that she wishes to fulfill her father’s dream of a developed and economically sound Aboi for the greater benefit of the people.
The 38-year-old also aims to work towards gender and need-specific programmes for the area. “Women make significant contributions every day, however their issues are often ignored. I want to focus on accelerating gender equality and women empowerment,” she says.
Awan also states that she has great hope in the power and potential of youth to shape the future. “Therefore harnessing their potential through targeted areas such as good education, skill development, social initiatives etc will surely reap enormous dividends and spur development in the area,” she says.
While women continue to thrive in many arenas, the same cannot be said in terms of state politics in Nagaland. With 5 candidates in the fray, it remains to be seen whether the state’s political setup and electorate will allow women to be a part of Nagaland’s highest policy making body.