In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of studies concerning women in Nagaland. Questions have been raised, discussed, and debated on the role of women in the state. The nature of the social structures and practices in Nagaland has had a huge effect on women’s sense of insecurity and feelings of inferiority. Naga women, today, have considerable amount of individual and social freedom, security, and respect; nevertheless, she is yet to experience life on an equal footing with men. The very nature of patriarchy in Nagaland renders women voiceless. Women are ignored in all important decision making processes. She may be the home maker, but the father is the head of the family and the final decider within the family circle.
Every Village in Nagaland is administered by the Village council who take full responsibility regarding political, social, and economic issues of the village. Each village has its own set of customary laws. The people in the villages maintain their social organisations with the guidance of the customary laws. These customary laws and practices define the status of women. Naga women do have privileges and opportunities, but face numbers of social, cultural, and political limitations. She is discriminated with regard to inheritance and decision making. She is not entitled to inherit the ancestral properties or landed properties of the clan. Her participations in the discussions relating to clan or village are limited, and her opinion in village meetings and affairs are ignored. Women in Nagaland are very poorly represented at all levels of formal decision making processes.
The one most dominant social feature among all the tribes is the entrenched system of patriarchy governing all aspects of life of the people. For example, the Village Council Act under the Membership clause 4. States;
A village Council shall consist of members, chosen by villagers in accordance with the prevailing customary practices and usages, the same being approved by the State Government, provided that hereditary village Chiefs, GBs and Anghs be Ex-officio Members of such council and shall have voting right.
From the language of this Act, it is apparent that from the very grassroots levels, women have been excluded from participating in any decision making body and what is more significant is the complicity of the elected government in such a discriminatory Act. It is on account of the intransigence of the patriarchal mindset that the status of Naga women has remained subordinated by such exclusionary practices in the name of custom and tradition
Girls at a very young age are taught by their mothers of their duties and responsibilities. The daily household tasks performed by women are never considered or accounted for. However, these traditional behavioural patterns to which women are bounded are altering in the present generation, particularly among the educated and gainfully employed women. Women in Nagaland also face wage disparities. The very nature of this attitude indicates the social subordination of women in the state. However, the society is also witnessing a few determined women leaders and Women organisations, helping and lending their voices for various causes.
In Nagaland, the political arena is male dominated. In total, 15 women (1969-2013) did contest in the General Assembly elections, but none was voted into office. Women do exercise their voting rights, but that is all. Representation and participation of women to the local administrative and development bodies are also limited. Gender stereotyping is still prevalent in the society.
The economy of the state is predominately agriculture with majority of the population living in rural areas. 70% of the population derives their livelihood from agriculture. A large number of women in Nagaland are cultivators. A substantial number of them are also engaged in informal trading activities. They comprise the majority of the market stallholders and vendors selling vegetables and indigenous produce. These women are not only independent of their male counterparts, but they are also the major source of support to their families. Few women have accessed the Government schemes, economic credits and opportunities provided to women to improve their economic status. Today, society readily welcomes these additional contributions from the women to support their families. However, the Naga society is still reluctant to bring about reforms in the traditionally established norms to elevate women’s status.
Source: Nagaland State Commission for Women