NEN is one of the earliest feminist voices that emerged out of north east India. Way back in early 1990s, two young women Dr. Monisha Behal and Dr. Roshmi Goswami marched up and down across several districts in different states of North East India. They started talking to women in rural and urban areas and took note of their strengths and concerns and realised that the emerging concerns of north east women were compounded by socio-political and cultural settings. They took on a lead role to represent voices of these women at various forums. North East Network began in 1995 with a vision that women must be at the centre stage of all decision making processes, both in private and public spheres. Soon several women from the grassroots, activists, academic, women’s organisations and others were mobilised to participate in the 4th World Conference on Women which was held in Beijing in 1995. NEN was the first organisation to publish a detailed documentation on women in conflict situations in North East India in the late 1990s from a women’s human rights perspective. NEN also made critical inputs to India’s Five Year plans.
Our visionary leaders ensured that local activism was linked up with global forums and reinforced its professional footing by building a strong team across 3 states. Today on its 25th year of commitment to women, NEN has emerged as one of the most credible and trusted feminist voices of North East India across national and international forums. Under the able mentorship of Dr.MonishaBehal, NEN sees the second rung of leadership in Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland who are also committed to carrying forward its mission for several generations to come and ensure a society that is equal and just for all. The new leaders are faces of NEN locally and globally.
In the early years of NEN in Assam, we started by building a print library in 1998 to serve as a public resource centre on women’s rights issues. We also started some of the earliest feminist trainings on women’s human rights, UN mechanisms and treaties, critical issues around women, peace and conflict, sexuality and gender equality. We took forward work on reproductive health, women’s economic empowerment through weaving activities. In the 2000s, NEN started taking part in international meetings and trainings used it as opportune moments to link up our micro grassroots initiates to global macro forums such as the UN CEDAW and ISCESCR.We were instrumental along with local groups in pressuring government to pass the Assam Witch Hunting Act and women’s helpline. NEN is now a resource think tank to national core committees and state agencies on women’s issues.In Meghalaya, NEN’s journey started with an initial study on women’s reproductive health rights that highlighted incidences of domestic violence that confronted the notion of a matrilineal state being free of violence. Reproductive and general health became the principal point for our trainings. We facilitated livelihood initiatives in several villages for women’s groups. The health department recognized VAW, particularly Domestic Violence as a public health issue and institutionalised Iohlynti (Support Centre for women) in Ganesh Das Hospital in 2011, which was adopted as the One Stop Centre.We began work with women farmers which resulted in the formation of the State MAKAAM chapter that revived our work on NRM.NEN’s journey in Nagaland started with addressing women’s reproductive health rights issues through the Chizami Women Health Centre, which was co-created with the local community institutions in Chizami village. From there, we delved into issues of food and nutrition, mental health and wellbeing, employment and income, etc. which are some of the social determinants of health. Through community mobilization and participation, the NEN Resource Centre at Chizami evolved into a creative and positive thinking hub for the local community.
To empower women, NEN strongly believes in understanding the intersecting social identities and right of every woman as crucial, irrespective of their race, colour, ethnic origins, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation, marital/civil status, gender, family status, age or social grouping. We work with community women – farmers, weavers, vendors, violence survivors, vendors, low income migrant workers and adolescent boys and girls.