Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Gender Equality in Naga Society - Zhovelu Shijoh, B.A. 2nd Sem (Sociology Honours)

More than half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force over the past 30 years, and women now account for more than 40 percent of workers worldwide. This has brought about increased productivity and many positive effects. Education is probably the key driver in bringing about this social transformation.

Gender Equality in Naga Society

Naga society is patriarchal. The name of the family is carried by the son; it is the male child or the male children who inherits the family properties. The male child is the head, whereas a female child when she marries takes the name of her husband’s family.

Generally, gender disparity and gender inequality in Naga society has been more or less systematically practiced and is strongly legalized by tradition. Traditionally, Naga women are more disadvantaged politically, culturally, economically and have less access to control over productive resources due to socio-cultural factors, exclusion in decision making and lack development intervention. Gender equality is the measurable equal representation of men and women. It does not imply that they are the same, but that they have equal rights of value and should be accorded equal treatment. It also means equal in terms of worth, visibility, empowerment and opportunities.

Naga society has always been classless and caste-less. Up to some extent, women enjoy certain privileges. Women are not literally harassed. They play a pivotal role in both family and community affairs. They enjoy a certain degree of freedom. However, since Naga society is patriarchal with a tradition of strong warrior values, it was considered an honor to be born as a man. The traditional culture and custom require Naga women to be obedient, humble and also perform the role of a wife, mother, child bearer, food producer and household manager. She also supplemented the household income by weaving colorful shawls, an activity performed exclusively by women. However, women could not inherit property from their parent’s household nor allowed to participate in decision making bodies such as the village assembly, citizen forum, village council etc.

Even in eating habits, women were not expected to eat the choicest portion of the meat. In Easterine Iralu’s Fictional Novel, “A Terrible Matriarchy” we find young Dielieno who is five years old and sent to stay with her disciplinarian grandmother who wants her to grow up to be a good Naga wife and mother. According to her grandmother, girls don’t need any education, they don’t need love and affection, or time to play, or even a good piece of meat with their gravy.

In the past, it was a taboo for women to cross the arena where men were wrestling. However, that was broken in 2000 and now we find women being allowed to participate in wrestling which was exclusively male in the past. Also, it is forbidden for women to touch tools or arms belonging to men in the past, as it was considered bad luck. But in modern times, women are in fact turning to the armed forces as a career option. Another taboo is that according to many Naga culture and tradition, a damsel could not grow her hair long until her marriage, as it was a sign of married woman and their identity. Today, this is extinct due to modernization and Christianity.

Unlike women-folk, men were considered to be the head of the family. He had the right to inherit property; they were the decision makers of the village or clans. In some cases, when no male child is blessed to the couple, the husband is entitled to divorce with his wife. Traditionally, the majority of parents attitude were found to be more positive towards male child than female child.

With the entrance of the Western Baptist Christian missionaries in the Naga Hills massive changes were brought about in the social, religious and cultural life of the Naga people. While spreading the new faith among the animist Nagas and indoctrinating them with Christianity, the missionaries laid the foundation for an educational system. The main objective behind establishing schools in the Naga Hills was to prepare fertile ground for the growth of Christianity by producing native preachers and Church Pastors. American missionaries like E.W. Clark and S. Rivenburg were amongst the first pioneers to lay the foundation of education in the Naga Hills. By 1904-1905, Naga people understood the significance of education and numerous activities in this regard increased during this period.

When we make a comparison between tradition and contemporary society, education has brought about drastic changes in every sphere of life in Naga society. Consequently, Education is playing a vital role especially in changing the status of women in our society, where we find that women, in spite of all the hardships are now outshining the men folk in many areas. Here, I’m proud to mention some of the Naga women to make a name in different fields through education like Ms. Rosalind Sokhrieno Lungalang who was the first female Graduate amongst the Naga women, Dr. Imtitemsula from Changki village became the first lady to complete her Ph.D. Degree in 1983, Shmt. Banuo Z.Jamir with the pristine powers of head, heart and hands, is the first Naga lady I.A.S officer and also the first lady to be Chief Secretary of Nagaland and so on. Education has allowed women to get into high-level jobs and provided access to new economic opportunities.  

In contemporary society, we will find that Naga women are successful business women, engaged as doctors, teachers, architects, engineers, administrative officials, lawyers etc. We also find many school girls are topping the HSLC and HSSLC exams like Miss Omegali [topper of HSLC 2010], Kaholi (topper of HSLC 2013) and Tziesetuonuo [topper of HSSLC-Arts stream].

Once upon a time, women had status or position in society based on their father’s/husband’s or brother’s statuses. But today because of education many women have been able to stand on their own. They are economically independent and likewise have more opportunities even in the socio-political field also.

If we look at the journey of women, we find that she has risen in spite of all the impediments like male arrogance coupled with tradition that sought to bind her at home. Many Naga girls and women have risen above all these constrictions and carved a name for themselves in the male dominated society. Women are now venturing into professions which were formerly male dominated. However, a lot needs to be done if we are to bring about true equality.

Educated women can guide and train their children better to become sensitive and responsible citizens. The women we are talking about could be your own sister, mother, wife or your daughter. All of us were once inside her womb for nine months and cared by her until we became independent and self-sufficient. Give her a chance and let her prove her capacity by providing her with equal opportunity to create and help build a stronger, better Nagaland.

NOTE: Naga traditional practices and customs mentioned above may differ or have slight variations between villages/tribes.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Price of a Naga Bride - Loina Shohe, Asst Professor, Department of Sociology

Birth, marriage and death are three key events in a person’s life which all religions and cultures observe. Every tribe in Nagaland is unique and wonderful with their own ways of celebrating these key events. Of these three key events, marriage is probably the only one where the participants take an active part in organizing and planning the ceremony. When we look at some of the practices like dowry and sati which used to take place in society, they seem out of place with these modern times. We take a look at a Naga marriage custom and its brush with modernity in our pluralistic society.  

The Price of a Naga Bride

When father married mother, he paid a dowry of 10,000 rupees in cash to my maternal grandfather. Grandfather, in turn gave ornaments, and all necessary household items to my mother as gifts when they married .That was way back in 1978.

Back then, our Sumi Nagas had a marriage custom where grooms paid bride- prices (in cash or kind). The price of a girl depended on her family lineage, her accomplishments, her education, her intellect, her appearance. In short, the finer the girl, the higher the prices. Mother, being a chief’s daughter, working as a primary teacher and  having her snapshot, in which she is in traditional attire, adorn the wall of a particular photo studio in Mokokchung, her high bride price was considered well justified. The customary bride price was practiced, it was believed, to ensure young women did not become involved in any sort of scandal. If she did, the bride-price was substantially reduced (Joshi). During my higher secondary days, an Ao friend once asked me “I heard Sumis sell girls; is that true?” I did try my best to explain the value of our bride-price to her, though at the end I could feel she still found it ridiculous. Anyway, that was in 2001. By that time, majority of our tribe had outgrown practicing the custom of bride–price. People realized daughters could be relied on by parents even after marriage and hence, the old claim of losing their daughter no longer validated the demand for bride-price. Many began to feel that asking dowry strained a groom’s economy, which could make the couple suffer after marriage. At the same time, girls no longer wanted to be considered sold off, especially in the modern world of equality and liberty, thus, ended the saga of our bride-price.

A proper Sumi marriage begins with a proposal which is brought on, through the prospective groom’s family or even a close friend, directly to the girl’s parents or indirectly through the girl’s aunt, after which, if accepted, engagement follows and a date is set for the wedding. The span of days from the proposal- to the days of engagement- to the actual marriage day may differ according to the convenience, but the general pattern was maintained by all in the olden days and is followed with equal reverence till today.  

Towards the approach of the marriage, pigs are killed and heads and legs distributed to the worthy (closest and elderly, selected) kin of the bride. It is considered an insult to give the wrong piece of meat; also we believe returning the meat is a bad omen. The meat giving seems to be undergoing some kind of crisis lately, with some people discouraging it, and some organizations banning it too. It is understandable why it’s not supported much these days – apart from the heavy expenses borne to buy the pigs, there have been instances when people had resorted to giving meat to influential people who are not customarily obliged to receive the meat. Besides thatthere have been many complaints of the pressure and expectation of the kin (who were given meat) who felt compelled to give more in the reception, especially when these days, weddings seem to be increasing every month .Despite its fault, meat-giving has not been able to be pushed aside completely because there has been no other better practice that could take its place to function as an expression of honor.

Some of our marriage customs have discontinued over the years, some continue,while others have been newly incorporated. In our Sumi marriages, these customs function as our guide; they help us focus on things to be done and how to do it in a systematic and organized manner. They teach us values which strengthen our family bonds, re-connect us to our roots and remind us of what’s important in our life. Those of us who have attended a Sumi wedding in recent times should not be left in error to feel that the new definition of our marriages are white weddings, with the perfect theme, billowing wedding gowns ,a cute ring boy, bridesmaids, flower girls, international cuisine, exchange of rings and not forgetting the dummy cake or the favors we get. Behind the glamorous Hollywood set up, the real value of a Sumi marriage is still influenced to a certain extent by the fulfillment of customs of the past.

With globalization, our community has undergone many changes in many areas of life.  Our marriage system too could not retain its purest form because, as we say in Sumi “Ado aghuloki no saghi vecheni ke” (Time brings it on) and with time we have learnt to give up certain things even as we started incorporating some new ones. But in fact, it’s not just our Sumi marriage custom but every aspect of our Naga culture, institutions or customs that cannot be said to exist still in its purest form today. Maybe, retaining its purity is not what matters most, but it can be holding on to things which can  help us unite stronger; help us grow and hope for better things in life without having to give up or deny who we really are.  On the other hand, maybe we should be letting go of things which unnecessarily put stress or demean any other person irrationally , one which is a stumbling block towards prosperity of the greatest, one which divides, one which makes us gain at the expense of other’s pain.

Our Naga society faces a great threat of losing our native culture today in the face of modernity. Our traditions and our customs could still be relevant even in future or become obsolete.  Whatever the case may be, I believe that if we do have to give up any of our tradition or old way of life, and if we find that it no longer stands the test of time, it should only be given up for a greater value, for the greater good, and nothing less beyond that.

*The Sumi practices mentioned above may vary slightly from region to
region and have been sourced from oral testimonies and case studies. 
Ref. Nagaland Past and Present: H. Joshi(2001)
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership
with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College.
For feedback or comments please email:”.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Resurrection: Our Blessed Hope - Daniel Khan, Asst. Professor, Department of Political Science

There was a time when our Nagas worshipped nature and the spirits. Today we are predominantly Christian. Looking at our society and the world as a whole, it is very easy to be pessimistic when we see poverty, corruption, violence and blatant crimes performed with no consequences or justice. The mockery of our own identity as people and believers needs to be challenged by consistently and progressively living for change. We see divisions among tribe, clan and even Christian denominations like Baptists, Catholics etc. with varied thoughts on practices, ceremony and religious rules. However, this week, as the Easter weekend draws near, we would like to remind our readers that even through pain, suffering and the death of Jesus Christ, God can still give life and bless us with hope through difficult times. We are Christians because we believe in the “resurrection” and when God can conquer death than we must have “hope” and work towards creating our utopian Christian society. 

We wish you all  

a blessed Easter weekend

Resurrection: Our Blessed Hope

Have you ever wondered what life is all about, what happens when a person dies, is there hope beyond the grave? If you have these questions, let the events of the coming days i.e., Good Friday and Resurrection Day, bring new meaning and hope to your life. As it is, a Christian who understands the power of Christ’s resurrection has greater hope. The first and so far the only resurrection to eternal life has been that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The first scriptural hint of Jesus' death and resurrection was written some six millennia ago, i.e., 4,000 years before the birth of Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the Christian system (1. Cor. 15:14). If there was no resurrection, Christianity would be a hoax, and we would have been wasting our time. But the truth is, the event of Jesus’ resurrection is unquestionable.  (1 Cor. 15: 16, 17) – If Jesus had simply died without being raised, Satan would have been victorious. He would have defeated Jesus, and we would all still be in our sins. In order to defeat Satan and thereby justify us, Jesus had to rise from the dead. The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus’ Resurrection rebuilt our hopes, gave joy, new beginning and new life.

Allow me to draw your attention to the changes which occurred as the result of our Lord’s resurrection. There are some important benefits of Jesus resurrection for all mankind.

Forgiveness of Past Sins (Matt. 28:10): “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there”. By “brothers” Jesus probably meant his disciples. This shows that He had forgiven them, even after they had denied and deserted him in His greatest hour of need. As we think about the resurrection in relation to our sins, we must recognize that, only because of the resurrection of Jesus we can have forgiveness for our past sins.

His resurrection gives us the assurance that Jesus has overcome death and won a great victory for His people. It is the resurrection that makes all the difference and puts us right with God. As Acts 4:12 says,“Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” There is no other way to heaven except through the risen Lord Jesus Christ. His death paid the penalty of our sins. His resurrection guarantees that God will forgive us of our sins when we sincerely and wholeheartedly cry out to him for forgiveness. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the death, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:8).

Power for Present Living (Matt. 28:20): The resurrection of Jesus not only guarantees forgiveness for past sins, it also guarantees power for present daily living. Because Jesus is a living savior, He empowers us to live each day for Him. As Jesus said, “I am with you always...” (Matt. 28:20). The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a belief of the Christian faith. It tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living Sovereign. Unlike all other religion, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. But the founder of Christianity – 60 years after his death appeared to John on the island of Patmos and said, “I am the first and the last and the living one; and I was dead and behold, I am alive for evermore.” Revelation 1:17-18).

Hope for Future Destiny (Matt. 28:20): - It is a magnificent promise that the power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead will one day raise believers back to life. 1st Corinthians 6:14 says, “By His power God raised Jesus from the dead, and He will raise us also.” Jesus told his disciples in John 14:1-2 just before he was crucified: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you”. Right now Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for every single believer, who trusts in Him with a real living faith. One day, those of us who wholeheartedly believe in Jesus will go to Him and live with Him in heaven for all eternity. At one point of time, the Apostle Peter lost all his hopes because he had failed Christ miserably by denying him three times, the night of Jesus’ arrest. But still he was able to write about hope because Jesus’ resurrection changed everything and gave him a new hope and life. Thus, with confidence, he gives us three solid reasons to rejoice and have hope in 1st Peter 1:3-7: “Rejoice! Your Past can be forgiven; Rejoice! Your Present can be handled; and Rejoice! Your Future can be secured.”

I want to ask you some questions today: Is Jesus alive in you? Has His resurrection become your resurrection? Are you benefitting daily from the resurrection? Are you saved? Because of the resurrection of Jesus, your sins can be forgiven. You can know the power of Jesus in your daily life and havehope foreternal destiny. In three simple ways – acknowledge that you are a sinner; believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins; and confess and repent for your sins. Trust in Him, in His death, burial, and resurrection because it has given us the assurance of Eternal salvation.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The ‘Fair and Lovely’ Woman - Anjan Behera, Asst. Professor, Department of English

It is great that we see so many smart and successful Naga women. However, we continue to have stereotypes of the perfect Naga women and debates rage regarding what they should wear and how they should behave. These stereotypes transcend into the family, the home and the work place even in this age. A lot of times we see marketing agencies inadvertently trying to reinforce these stereotypes at times. We take a look at marketing strategies which act like they are a woman’s best friend but are actually demeaning them when you look at it from a different angle.

The ‘Fair and Lovely’ Woman

It’s the same every time. The sad looking dusky girl is a failure wherever she goes. She can’t get a job, no man wants to marry her, and her parents are embarrassed. The parents feel ashamed of their daughter because she is dusky. And then, just as we start to feel sorry for the poor lady, she discovers some fairness cream which transforms her overnight into a fair and ‘beautiful’ woman, and everything falls into place. She gets the job, the most eligible man marries her, and she is for once happy.

In the world of advertisements, the story of the dusky girl isn’t a new one.  Only light coloured women are beautiful and successful. In India, there is a special ‘demand’ for fair women in the matrimonial columns of newspapers. One can attribute these fairness products’ advertisements as a contributing factor to people believing that only a light skinned woman is good and successful. Our society has been viewing these ads over and over again, creating the notion of a superiority based on skin tone. These ads create the image of an ‘ideal woman’, which acts as a suppressive force against women empowerment.

Advertisements, while entertaining, can contain several of these subtle messages that help carry around old and biased views about gender. Consider any of the detergent ads in India. Most of them will show a bratty kid who has gotten his clothes filthy, and a caring and nurturing mother soon comes to his rescue. It is always the women shown washing clothes, adding indigo dyes, and saving the day for everyone. Apparently, they can never make their own clothes messy, and the husbands or fathers never do laundry. Kajol Devgan, in the ad for Rin goes to various houses and attacks the women for not keeping the clothes sparkling clean. It’s almost a default, and no woman in the ad ever steps up and says “My husband washed these”. These reinforce the idea of a woman who is supposed to do household chores, while the men do not have to bother about these.

Washing clothes isn’t the end of it.  In the world of advertisements, women are always stuck doing household chores. Sakhsi Tanwar’s ads for Vim show a homemaker who is perturbed by the deplorable condition of her utensils. Using Vim, cleans up her plates and dishes, and makes her the perfect mother and wife that she is supposed to be. Yes, perfect not because she loves her family, but because she is able to do all household chores. All ads for kitchen related products, be it salt, chilli powder, or even utensils, always depict women in kitchens. We are exposed to these advertisements on daily basis, which make us believe that a good wife or mother must do household work and excel in them. The idea of a career woman is seldom explored in advertisements.

Women are also shown to be fickle minded and unstable in various ads. Analyze any perfume or deodorant ads for men. The man smells so heavenly that the woman leaves whatever she is doing and chases him. One of the most absurd portrayals of women, these ads however continues to be made and helps in selling products. These ads for deodorants like Axe show that women as such have no control or no will power, and are puppets at the hands of men. These ads do more damage to the notions that our patriarchal society have about the “fairer” sex, than the ads that show women provocatively. They justify men deciding for or representing the woman, rather than allowing her to come up and speak for herself.

The jewellery brand Tanishq released an ad that showed a family driving to an event. The daughter, who seems to be career oriented and believes in the fact that marriage is not the sole purpose of a woman’s life, is shown to be in the driver’s seat. The father talks about Varun, a boy who is settled in San Jose as a prospective groom for his daughter. The daughter sharply refuses. The mother then gets off the car and proceeds to a Tanishq showroom. She makes the daughter try on wedding jewellery. The daughter is mesmerized by the beauty and glamour of the ornaments, and is visibly upset about having to remove them. When the family gets back in the car, the daughter asks about Varun, showing that she is interested in marriage miraculously. And the mother sends an SMS to the father which reads, “It has been 25 years, but you have learnt nothing about women”.

This ad again shows women as being fickle minded. It shows that a woman must get married. It does not matter if she is career oriented, or wants to wait for a few years while she prepares herself for marriage. That should be her ultimate goal in life, to become a wife and probably clean shirts of her husband with Rin, and keep the house spick and span. The mother’s SMS shows that woman can indeed be persuaded to do anything by giving them pretty ornaments.

We live in a postmodern world, where stereotypes about women must be discarded. We cannot pass on these stereotypes to our future generations. We cannot put restraints on women only because of their gender. A woman can cook, sew, and clean, but that is not her only identity. She does not stay confined to removing stains from clothes, chasing men who smell good, doing anything for a few pretty ornaments, and cooking food for her family. Women are powerful, they always have been. Our patriarchal society has caged their strength for so long, depicting and understanding them as weak and frail creations of God. This led to the women themselves believing in the constraints they had been put in. The tragedy is that most of these ads make use of these stereotypes to sell their products, not realizing the damage they are doing.

The new world that we live in, has shown that women are, in no way lesser than men, if not superior. She can defend her country (Jhansi ki Rani), help the poor and needy (Mother Teresa), run governments (Sonia Gandhi), fight in wars (Eileen Nearne), write (Easterine Kire), cook (Tarla Dalal), preach (Joyce Meyer), produce TV shows (Tina Fey), and revolt against societal norms (Mukhtaran Bibi). They are walking hand in hand with the men, trying to make the world a better place to live in. I sincerely hope we get to see a glimpse of this in advertisements, instead of the same old ‘fair and lovely’ women.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”.

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...