Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The 21st Century Women and Politics in Nagaland - Mhasilie Koza, Asst Professor, Department of Commerce



Women in the Naga society are increasingly exposed to modern ideas and concepts due to factors like contemporary education, media and technology, the globalization process, and Westernization associated with Christianity. However, the truth is that their social reality continues to be constrained by the traditional modes of thinking. These ideals are based on a rigid patriarchal value system that which has been handed down through generations. This is especially visible in the political milieu of Nagaland where our leaders are mostly men. A society can never fully develop until all sections of society stand for themselves and make their voices heard..

The 21st Century Women and Politics in Nagaland

The most crucial impediment to social development in the 21st century is the exigency to incorporate women into decision-making institution and bodies at all levels. Thisneeds to be addressed as the Naga society today stands at the crossroads over the very question of including women in decision-making. The recent high court ruling on the 33% reservation for women in the municipal and town council in Nagaland is a major landmark in Naga women’s history. But their social reality continues to be constrained by the traditional modes of thinking based on Patriarchal value system. The pattern of socialization of girls and the social norms of motherhood resulting in the dichotomy of public and private sphere is accountable to a large extend for undermining Naga women’s public role in the 21st century. Women in Naga society are characterized with a very low sense of political efficacy. The low political efficacy of the Naga women demands consideration in the light of their extremely low level of participation in the political process of the state.

Conscious political awareness and civic education becomes crucial to combat the problem of low political efficacy on the part of the Naga women. The pessimistic female political efficacy in Naga society can be a response to the increasing criminalization of our political state of affairs.With the overriding elements of “Muscle Power” and “Money Power” ruling in the Naga electoral practices, women generally feel helpless being confronted by such typically ‘masculine’ representation of these political activities. It then results in a general distrust of political and the political system.

The low political aspiration of the Naga women is totally incongruous when the demand for political empowerment of women throughout the entire world is an increasing phenomenon under the sway of the women’s movement. Women all over the globe were clamoring for the right to be part of the decision-making institutions particularly after the UN international Decade of women.

The emergent picture that Naga women showsvery nominal interest in entering the highest decision-making body in the state  raises questions regarding the social and political environment of Naga society. Naga women need to get involved in the public affairs of the state with the understanding that it is their civic duty as responsible citizens.

Notwithstanding the low political aspiration of the women, many of them are visibly of the opinion that more women in Nagaland should stand for elections and be a part of the state legislature. Naga women also strongly feel that having women legislators would usher in a more fair and just society undoubtedly a positive inference to the increased gender awareness on the part of the Naga women. There is a strong emergent perception among the Naga women for the need to improve their social and political position in society. Women of the day fells that having women legislators would draw attention of women into politics which would then make possible a review of traditional law in matters like inheritance and property rights, marriage and divorce, custody of children, all of which were heavily biased against women.

Why are all our politicians always men? In Nagaland, many of the male politicians have been tarnished with allegations of corruption. The blame games played by the various political parties have deteriorated the functioning of the government. Simple issues are politicized instead of solving them. We actually have never seen our male leaders “in action” raising their voices against corruption. So perhaps there is no heavenly advantage of having male politicians. Women today are walking hand in hand with men trying to make a difference in the world. There is no point of holding back women just because “they are supposed to stay at home and look after the children”. They can do that, and much more. .

Many Naga women are of the opinion that only then would they be in a position to break free from the traditional dominance of male opinion and decision-making in all spheres of life and take control of their own destiny. Through increased participation in the administration of public life, women could fight for their rights and privileges which would ultimately result in “the opposite sex looking upon us as subjects and not objects”. Naga women were known for their aptitude of hard work and enterprising spirit, even to the point of surpassing their male counterparts on their count. A widespread belief popularly held by women in the state was that they ought to be given a fair chance so that their capabilities would be realized to the fullest possible extend which hitherto was repressed through generation of patriarchy and related norms.

In Nagaland, the political process in general, and the electoral practices in particular, have over the yearsdepicted a very negative image. It is significant to note that one vital factor that deterred Naga women from politics was the negativity associated with politics. Therefore,it is believed that having more capable women legislators in the legislation would bring about a greaterpositive transformation in the image of political activities.

“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: admin@tetsocollege.org”.

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