Northeast India comprises the contiguous Eight States—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The region has been facing the onslaught of multiple armed conflicts for many decades. The issues aggravated after the introduction of the Armed Forces Special Power Act. More than 50,000 lives have been lost in the violence. The total population of North Eastern Region of India is 38,857,769, of which 19.1% are living below the poverty line. North East India deals with complex social political issues such as struggle over natural resources, ethnic conflicts, illegal migration, displacement and social exclusion. In Assam, there have been 14 bomb blasts since January to March, this year and 30 cases of bomb blasts between January and March 23 in Manipur. The conflict in Manipur turns 300 women into widows annually.
Women's role remains weak and insecure in all social, political and economic activities in Northeast India. According to UNICEF, Assam has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in India, 407/100,000 live births. Manipur has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the country. In Sikkim, there were 54 cases of rape, 9 cases of dowry deaths and 10 cases of domestic abuse by husband or relative during 2011-2012. Mostly cases of domestic violence against women are not reported.
On 3 May 2014, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN) and North East India Women Initiative for Peace (NEIWIP) in partnership with Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI) successfully organized a women's network meeting under the theme ‘The Importance and Role of Women in Decision Making Forums Peace and Development in Manipur and Northeast India', in Manipur.
The meeting commenced with a welcome speech by Ms Reena Mutum, State Coordinator, MWGSW, said that participation of womenfolk is the need of the hour because women from all age groups have been suffering in different ways in the society. She discussed the problems of women and challenges in decision making and the strategies in it.
An introductory speech was given by Ms Hazarimayum Jubita, Executive Director of Gender Development Initiative and Convener of Peace Core Team, Manipur. She explained the concept of UNSCR 1325 and the participation of women in decision making forums for peace and development in North East India and the importance of strengthening of women's network. She focused more on the role of women in decision making. She also added that education system should be changed according to today's situation or scenario.
Ms. Lourembem Nganbi, Meira Paibi Leader, Bishnupur District, focused on the education of women and girl child. She stated that education is the basic and initial stage for the development of women in respect with decision making. She gave importance to the moral character of women, knowing their own rights, transparency in working, unity, economy and most importantly she concluded with the concept of ‘research', which gives sharing, participation, and helps to enhance the knowledge. And with some of the spokespersons, they talked about the ‘patriarchy society' in the Indian context which highly needs the changes.
Ms Sitara Begum, Muslim Woman Leader Imphal East, said that, “there is no role of women in the decision making processes. In Manipur, during crime women were the first to handle the situation but on the other hand when there is the time of decision making they were been kept aside”.
Ms. Valley Rose, Editor, Aza Daily, said according to her own experience that “husbands and wives relationship must give more importance”, as decision making processes starts from family itself. She explained that women must feel responsible to help other women who are the victims of violence. Women should not tolerate crime against other women. She also shared her experience of the effect of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and became refugee, quoting ‘I am refugee in my own land'.
Ms Arambam (O) Memchoubi, Poetess & Scholar of Manipuri literature and Mythology, kept her attention on the misinterpretation of the traditional practices in Manipur in terms of marriage and other rituals. According to her, some of the practices during ritual function should be changed with the time.
With the continuation of the session Ms Ima Ramani, President, All Manipur Women's Reformation & Development Society, mentioned about the understanding of ‘Rajnity, Arthanity, and Dharmanity'. She also shared her personal experience of work and challenges that she faced from the society. She further stated that women should be given equal distribution of property and she used to apply that rule practically.
The meeting concluded with the brief discussion on violence against women, status of women in northeast India, women's importance and role in decision making and drafting of 21 points for future strategies in decision making and screening of the film “Women, War and Peace”. Finally “Manipur Women Alliance on UNSCR 1325” was formed to initiate women's participation in decision making.
Note: United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 is an international law unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 31 October 2000 that mandates UN Member States to engage women in all aspects of peace building including ensuring women's participation on all levels of decision–making on peace and security issues.
For more information, please contact:
Office of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network
Langthabal Mantrikhong, Thong Ahanbi, Behind Manipur University Campus,
Imphal West, Manipur- 795003, India