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Naga activists call for changes in male-dominated society

Posted on Feb 12 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 12 : Naga activists and scholars Wednesday robustly called for changes in the male-dominated society of Nagaland state, saying that it barred women from inheritance, land rights as well as political equality.

"We are now fighting for our constitutional rights of representation and reservation by going to the Supreme Court," said Rosemary Dzuvichu, associate professor at Nagaland University.

Acknowledging that there were some positive developments, Dzuvichu remarked that while constitutional bodies like the state government did not implement its commitment to reserve 33 percent of elected posts in municipal bodies for women, traditional male-dominated groups such as the Naga Hoho also opposed it.

Speaking on the second day of the international conference of 'The Eastern Himalaya: Gender, Poverty and Livelihoods' organized by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research at Jamia Millia Islamia, Monalisa Changkija, founder-editor of the Nagaland Page, remarked on the "'second-classness' of Naga women and male-stream customary laws which restrict us".

Challenging the romantic popular concept of Naga and other tribal women being more equal than other Indian women, Changkija, who is also a poet, declared that Naga women were "better educated, more mobile and more visible - but that does not protect us from customary law".

The intense sessions also heard from scientists, engineers, activists and civil society organizers on the Uttarakhand deluge of 2013 and the grim lessons it held for the northeastern states.

Mindless "development, insensitivity to forest and mountain ecosystems and laying of infrastructure expanding dams and roads and poor governance were responsible", they said.

Traditional building structures of wood and stone were being replaced by concrete buildings with state support without caring for safety.

"Dams were buried under sediment," said Ravi Chopra of the Peoples' Science Institute in Dehra Dun.

A pronounced feminization of agriculture as a result of migration was visible.

"There is also a collapse of mountain agriculture," he remarked, a view echoed by speakers who shared experience from Nepal, Myanmar, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Assam.

Male migration is a major phenomenon with farm owners moving to cities in search of jobs, putting women under great pressure while running the farms.

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