By Sujit Chakraborty
Kohima/Shillong, Nov 13 (SocialNews.XYZ) Assembly polls are due in four northeastern states -- Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, next year, and the women would play a vital role in these crucial polls as they have traditionally always been at the forefront of most of the societal issues.
Assembly elections in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura are expected to be held in February after the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and Mizoram would go to the assembly polls next year end.
Similar to previous voters' list, in the recently published draft electoral rolls for Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, women outnumbered male voters, but it was hard to find them among candidates in the electoral fray earlier.
Like all previous elections, 4,27,345 women voters outnumbered the male electorates of 4,03,927 in Mizoram.
Similarly, 6,38,473 female voters outnumbered the male electorates of 6,37,311 in Nagaland and in Meghalaya 10,68,018 women voters exceeded the number of male electorate of 10,43,194.
In the election-bound Tripura too, out of 60 assembly seats, in at least seven assembly segments, women voters outnumbered their male electorates.
For the past many decades, the number of women electorate was higher than the men electorate in Meghalaya and Mizoram, which are matrilineal and patriarchal societies, respectively.
Guwahati-based writer Ratna Bharali Talukdar said that women in most cases are not allowed to contribute to make important policies for the nation and the states.
"Even male politicians and officials are framing policies concerning women. In the Gram Panchayats, in several northeastern states including Assam as there are 50 per cent seats reserved for the women, they are performing excellently well. Not only their satisfactory performance, women' works are also very transparent and standard in terms of quality," she told IANS.
Talukdar, who is also the Executive Editor of multilingual online portal 'Nezine' and received many national level awards, said that in the academic, administrative, governing sectors women's participation is very less despite the literacy percentage of women not much less than the men's literacy rates.
Number of women ministers, MPs and MLAs in several northeastern states are very less compared to their percentage in population and role in most socio-economic aspects.
Mizoram in the last 50 years witnessed only one minister and three MLAs and similar situation in Nagaland too.
Currently, there are no women ministers in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Number of women in the legislative assemblies and many autonomous bodies of the seven northeastern states is equally depressing, if not worse.
Of the total of 466 seats in the assemblies of seven northeastern states, only around 5 per cent are currently women.
"Women electorates are not only more than 50 per cent in the voters' list of several northeastern states, they are in the forefront in both domestic affairs and in the societal sphere. But the women are deprived of sharing governance," social activist and writer Nandita Datta said.
"If women get the due political empowerment and governance, many issues of northeast India would be resolved more easily," she told IANS.
Datta said that northeast India traditionally is a woman empowered society, though the women are given very less scope in politics and governance.
"Northeastern women are educated, efficient and conscious of all basic issues. We are able to take care of our family, society and administration collectively. But male political leaders thought that we are not capable," said Datta, who got several prestigious awards for her numerous social works.
Former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar's wife and social activist Panchali Bhattacharjee said that without reservation of seats for the women in both Parliament and state legislative assemblies, no parties including the Left parties, would nominate adequate number of women in the elections.
"Traditionally, in India, men always intended to enjoy more power than women. If you see the history since several hundred years, you will find this that men always dominate the women, except in exceptional cases," she told IANS.
"In the patriarchal societies, women are always deprived not only in political and economical segments, but also in other basic sectors too," said Bhattacharjee, who was a senior official of the central government's social welfare board.
The century old and world's largest all-women run market 'Ima Keithal' or the 'Mother's Market', located in Manipur capital Imphal and other smaller all-women markets functioning in different parts of the northeastern state boost the Manipur economy to a large extent and a great source of livelihood of thousands of women.
The all women market, which has a history of over 500 years, has around 3,615 licensed female vendors registered with the Imphal Municipal Corporation.
The Naga Society in the neighbouring Nagaland, is a casteless and classless society where traditionally women have enjoyed a high social positioning and a fair spirit of independence playing a very central role in family and community affairs but not in governance of the state.
President Droupadi Murmu during her visit in Nagaland and Mizoram earlier this month urged the women to come forward and get more involved in public life.
"If women are empowered, there is more development in society. Women lead with empathy, with care and they will give a new dimension to the development journey of Nagaland," she had said while addressing a civic reception organised by the Nagaland government in her honour at Capital Cultural Hall in Kohima.
The President had interacted with female students and women faculty members of Mizoram University along with some women led Self Help Groups in Aizawl.
Murmu said that she has been told about the steady progress and achievements of women in various fields in Mizoram and hoped that in the coming years women's contribution towards the overall development of the state would rise and their role would be enhanced.
She pointed out that besides jobs in the government sector, women must be empowered economically so that they can have their own start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures and said that more proactive steps need to be taken and existing support systems in place presently need to be strengthened and augmented.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)