Friday, December 2, 2022

Analysing the present status of Naga women in Nagaland

Women, who constitute 49.6% of the world’s population (in 2020), have been suppressed, oppressed, and treated as subordinate, not as equal to men in various arenas of activity. Neither in history nor social or economic life have they been given their due. The -called “battle of the sexes” has been one-sided, with the “weaker sex” remaining on the losing side whenever things come to a crunch and vital decisions have to be made. Throughout the world, women remain backward except in a few advanced countries. The position in India focusing on Nagaland is still deplorable. Many provisions have been incorporated into the Constitution to give equal rights and opportunities to men and women. Despite such measures, the purpose of integrating women into the mainstream of development is very slow; therefore, much more needs to be done in that direction.
The Naga women are also somewhat in a similar position, because they are not yet popularly acknowledged for making an impact at par with the men in society. When we consider the status of women in our society today, their position in the secular, as well as in the church still struggling with an inferiority complex, and still subjected to the age-old traditions and culture. They are not coming up in spite of the opportunities provided to them. Compared to women today, who are somewhat liberated from the bond of old traditional concepts, in the past, they were not given ample opportunities as they were inferior to men. The social setup was focused on male heads. Because of this, Women despite the fact women, despite being valued, were not given much importance despite being valued, and women were suppressed by their male counterparts in all walks of life. To outsiders, Naga women would appear to enjoy a certain degree of freedom and involvement in wider society. Though socially active and freer, she is still prevented from being a decision-maker; as socially free does not mean political right or freedom. Imtijungla Longchar, an author, cites, “Socially, I am not satisfied as many of the Naga women prefer to stay indoors; economically, our business is run by others. No women entrepreneurs except few, religiously no spirit-filled mighty preachers, no writers, and no zeal. Politically the status is zero”.
Women’s position in the Naga society is somewhat better compared to their traditional life. The present status they are enjoying is because of the advent of Christianity and its influences on agencies like the western world (new insights, way of life, responsibilities, thoughts etc.), way of thinking, living etc. Christianity was first established among the Nagas in the Ao area and its impact on the Nagas changed their concept of living and their way of thinking leading to some women coming out from the bondage of tradition and involving in different spheres of life.
Even today, a common statement that differentiates women’s status from that of menfolk, sometimes raring them as minor citizens irrespective of their status, age, and qualifications to defame or defend women, they say, “What do these women and children know about?” Such usages refer not only in support of them but also to insult the gender. They are regarded as inferior to men in society and family circles because of their feminine characteristics.
In the Church, women have been excluded from leadership roles. The traditional attitudes towards women in such roles have been maintained in the Churches to a greater extent than in society generally. The role of women in the Church has been limited by male control of its administrative structure. They may teach some of the young children in Sunday schools, in Child Evangelism classes, as teachers in Church schools, as wardens in girl’s hostels and in women’s work-but positions at the higher level in both the local Church and association, as secretaries of different departments, pastors or administrators, or members of the decision making bodies are denied to them. The male domination at that level is like an unshakeable fortress; thus, the leadership roles for women are extremely limited.
Although there has been progress in women’s ministry, they were given fewer opportunities to participate in the administration, and ordained ministry was denied. Thus, our society is still conditioned by traditional values, cultures and attitudes, which hinder full and equal participation of women in the ministry. It is yet to open the way for women to share equal opportunities in the Church’s ministry. But it was only in the year 1980 that Ao Churches raised the ordination of women issue and made people aware of it leading to Rev. Noksangchila of Yaongyimsen Village becoming the first ordained woman on 31st May, 1992 in the whole of Northeast India.
When Nagaland got Statehood in 1963, it was Rano Mese Shaiza who opened the chapter of the first feminine arrival into State politics. As a nominee of the Democratic Front, she contested in the State General election for the Legislative assembly in 1977 and defeated the sitting Chief Minister Hokishe Sema. In 1973, she was elected as the first President of the United Democratic Party and represented at Lok Sabha. At present, S Phangnon Konyak of BJP is the second Naga woman parliamentarian and the first Naga woman Rajya Sabha member. Today, the representation of Naga women in State politics is very negligible. So far, only four female candidates have unsuccessfully contested as independent candidates. The reasons for low representation of women are that political parties are dominated by male leadership and they prefer men over women candidates. The woman wings of different political are zed to attract female voters to vote for only male candidates, excluding them from the main party organisations.
For a reasonably long period of time, Naga women could not dare to come forward in public either places nor were they free enough to express their constructive ideas for the well-being of society. With the coming of Christianity and the emphasis on women’s education, Naga women realized that there should be changes in the Naga Customary Law and procedure and social practices in conformity with Naga progress in society. Eventually, this led to emerging some woman organizations like Watsu Mungdang and Naga Mothers Association, with their main focus on uplifting Naga women and eliminating social evils like the sale and use of liquor, thus leading to its ban by the Total Prohibition Act. Today, different women’s organizations are making much effort to emancipate the people from economic, social and religious evils. The Crusade of these Women Organizations against various evils will be a formidable task.
Imtijungla Longchar thus quotes, “Changes are needed in any spectrum, but women are not willing to change. Let the woman/girl stand out with qualification, talent, and personality, and definitely, the world will use her; if only they are capable, the change will come.
Limasanen Longchar. D.Min (Scholar)
Discipleship Bible
College, Dimapur

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