Our Correspondent | EMN
KOHIMA, DEC 14: The general perception about Naga women enjoying equal status with men and being much better off than the women in the rest of the country seems to be a misleading notion as the reality of the status of women in the State remains grim with Naga Women having no right to inheritance, land, property and no access to land resources.
The Naga customary laws were a question of intense debate and discussion at the seminar held here today even as emphasis was thrown on representation of women in decision making.
Rosemary Dzüvichü, Advisor to Naga Mothers’ Association, while thoroughly deliberating on ‘Laws and Policies in furthering women’s empowerment in Nagaland & 33% Women Reservation Struggles and Challenges’ strongly maintained that successive governments in the State have been unfriendly to women empowerment. Over 40 years of statehood and there has been no woman in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, wherein she indicated that unless we have a woman sitting at the government level, promotion of woman will be futile.
She also said Article 317 (A) has been the biggest stumbling block in empowering women, although she stated that the Article which guarantees protection of Naga rights, our land and resources is good. She felt that when it comes to discriminatory customary practices, it has been made a law here.
Dzüvichü further observed that the very fact that Naga women do not have access to land and property means that even when it comes to the agri sector, economy or industry, the banking scene in Nagaland is very unfriendly as women cannot mortgage for lack of property. Also, she pointed out that due to the unwritten customary laws we have had varied interpretations and with village judiciary comprising only of men, it is very difficult for women to get sincere judgment. In this regard, she made mention of the rape case in Mokokchung.
She also pointed to the several loopholes in the many policies for women empowerment which prevent women from enjoying the benefits while specifically referring to the Village Development Board which is seen as a lifeline of development funds and clearly states that 1/4th will constitute women and accordingly 1/4th of funds will go to women. However, while there are success stories where some VDBs have really done well, she said in majority of the VDBs, including prominent villages, women representation is only on paper where they do not have any idea of the annual grants.
Stating that the government of Nagaland has envisaged a number of programmes in line with the national policy for empowering women, she however asserted that the government needs to seriously assess and see how much promotion of women is actually taking place. Citing several instances of women being deprived of their rights with issues related to health, education, economy, or protection of women, she lamented that even though NRHM and HIV/AIDS concerns seem to be in place, there is rampant corruption with unbalanced distribution of PHCs, also seen in the lack of labour rooms, non-existence of incubators, etc. She also referred to case of preferential payment for institutional delivery wherein a mother who delivered a baby boy was paid Rs 500 while the other with a girl child was given Rs 300 on the same day.
She maintained that the whole owner of failure in empowering women is the successive state governments, but also held that changes are taking place and strongly asserted that empowerment of women is possible only with the cooperation of the government.
Meanwhile, with the court’s favour on 33% Reservation for Women in civic bodies, she disclosed that they are in the last stages of identifying potential, educated and good women candidates to contest in the elections scheduled for early next year. However, with HSLC examination coming up in February, it was learnt that they were requested to postpone it to April. In this regard, the Joint Action Committee has accepted the proposal and accordingly, 30th April, 2012 has been set as the final date for completion of elections in all the municipalities.
In her keynote address, Member Planning Commission Dr Syeda Hameed said though Naga women are seen to be among the strongest and most empowered in the country, when it is looked at sector by sector, the reality is different. She categorically stated that the biggest shock is the performance in the health sector while referring to the various instances of health issues pointed out by the NMA Advisor earlier.
However, she said the seminar on women representation in decision making is a timely effort while stating that anything substantial from the meeting would be included in the 12th five year plan from 2012 to 2017.
As a member of the Commission looking after issues of women and children, health, handloom and handicraft sector, etc, she informed that she was here to get a bird’s eye view of everything. “Your importance is not any the less. The Prime Minister himself is concerned, and I have come with his mandate…a good opportunity to listen and gather all the impressions,” she stated.
In the meantime, she commended the North East Network, which has established its identity in Chizami under Phek district, and lauded their ability, interest and involvement.
She further acknowledged the struggle of the Naga women in order to get reservation despite it being their right while observing that the issue of women in decision making has been very tough all over the country. She added that should realise that this is equally their issue since agriculture, households, etc, are issues that concern both man and woman.
Members present included Dr Anita Agnihotri, National Commission for Women, New Delhi, Chairperson for Nagaland State Women Commission, Sano Vamuzo, Abeni, SWC, Monalisa Changkija, Editor & Publisher of Nagaland Page, and representatives from various Tribal Women Organisations including Youth Net.
Original Story: Naga Customary Laws Come Under Scrutiny