Views & Reviews
Dawn of Change with New Hope: A Catalyst to achieving Gender Equality
As the whole world is celebrating the achievements of women on International Women’s Day, Nagas also join the celebration with the victory of two women namely, Ms. Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Ms. Hekani Jakhalu in the State General Election 2023. After sixty years, Nagaland opens a new account by electing two women candidates to be Members of Legislative Assembly. Naga women have been marginalised for a long time in political sphere as from 1963, Nagaland Legislative Assembly has never elected any Woman candidate to be its Member until 2023. The victory of Ms. Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Ms. Hekani Jakhalu has marked a change in history for the Nagas. Their winning is not just a goal in itself but for sustaining Democracy. These two prominent Naga women elected by people’s vote can be seen as a catalyst to achieving Gender Equality in Naga Society. The dawn of change in women in politics and decision making body could also ensure a greater responsiveness to the needs of the Naga citizens.
The rigid Patriarchal Traditional Naga society witnesses the wide gap of Gender differences and was far from gender equality. The traditional period places women in a lower or secondary position where they are not given a platform or chance to speak in the decision making of any village matters. The elders of the village are purely constituted by male members alone without any questions or objections. This selectivity and silence has no question of making women a member of village elders or in decision making body as women are always placed as an inferior or the second sex as rightly pointed out by Simone De Beauvoir in her book, “The Second Sex”.
The patriarchal Naga society after sixty years has sowed the seed of gender equality in these two Constituencies i.e., 8th Western Assembly Constituency and Dimapur III Assembly Constituency. One will agree that these two women candidates won the election not by the ‘mercy vote’ but by who they are and not placing them as ‘just a woman’. Today, social media platform has become a hotspot for many keyboard warriors and young people who have criticised the victory of women candidates but one can agree that the mindset of many people- both young and old have started to believe in the leadership of women especially in the 8th Western Assembly Constituency and Dimapur III Assembly Constituency. No doubt the women candidates have done really well but we can applaud the people as a whole for voting for them and believing in them. Not forgetting the participation of other two women candidate Er. Kahuli Sema and Ms. Rosy Thompson who boldly and confidently contested in the General Election 2023. The notions of the people on the concept of gender parity have started to show changes with time.
Gender inequality and gender stereotypes have been common though we consider ourselves to be in an Egalitarian Naga Society. Some recent comments such as “Why should we let women lead us?”, “She is just a woman”, “She is married to another tribe”, “Men should know their position and not vote for a woman”, etc. has indeed made the voters rethink and question patriarchy in our society.
Though Naga women have achieved a lot and some more than men, women have been far behind in achieving gender equality when it comes to political representation and decision making for a long time. The active participation of Naga women in Political sphere today will generate a higher citizen confidence in democracy which will encourage other women also. The confidence and capability of the elected candidates will be an example and baby step for people of Nagaland to erase the notion of wide gap gender differences in society as a whole. This political representation of women in Nagaland government might also be a bridge or link for economic empowerment of Naga women. It can also be a reminder of pervasive and persisting nature of gender equality. The victory of Ms. Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Ms. Hekani Jakhalu is therefore a political empowerment which can be a catalyst for Gender Equality. It is a dawn of change where we can expect women economic empowerment which could lead to more openings of opportunities for women in general.
We salute and respect all the bold women candidates who have come out of their comfort zone to contest and share a platform with men in politics and decision making body. Big congratulations to Ms. Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Ms. Hekani Jakhalu for the victory and breaking barriers on behalf of the rest of Naga women. As Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women, former President and Defence Minister of Chile said “For me, a better Democracy is a Democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and elect but to be elected” Nagas have a new hope and a dawn of a better Democracy.
Dr. Vitsou Yano
Modern College, Piphema