By Aheli Moitra
A woman with a sling bag across her shoulder, paan across her teeth, stood beside the voters’ queue. Seeing the presence of election observers, she approached them and said, “Please write that election here has been peaceful.” Her hands swayed inward out to stress on how peaceful the polls at the station she was monitoring has been. Thousands of women were mobilised from Naga communities throughout the State to oversee election malpractices by candidates of election to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly. But are they to blame for an election that depends on malpractices?
By Aheli Moitra
Here’s a narration of what women said while standing in the voters’ queues around Dimapur, Nagaland. Some were either oblivious of, or had reconciled with, what a Member of Legislative Assembly owes to them but does not deliver, while some were using the ballot to overthrow poor leadership. Yet others were helping leaders come to power so they can help them out in turn.
By Ninglun Hanghal
Poll results in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya were announced on March 3. In these three states of north-east India, Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) made gains and is all set to either form the new government or form a key alliance partner. In Tripura the BJP scored above the magic mark of 35 and emerged a single majority putting an end to the 25 long year left rule in the state. In Meghalaya , though BJP could not only managed 2 seats, which is a major improvement from the last election with no seat in the assembly, the party is playing key role in supporting the new alliance government – the National People’s Party led alliance . In Nagaland the BJP as in earlier government is and will remain the main coalition partner. From a single MLA in the previous election BJP had come up to 8 this time in Nagaland.
The remaining congress ruled state Mizoram that will go to polls later this year is sure to face the challenges of the saffron wave too.
All in all BJP has made a huge entry in north-east India. The party is settling down for a comfortable stay and is here to remain for at least say a decade?
While it is all about a show of strength, performance, winning from state to state, putting an end to incumbency, wiping out congress and left governments across India or in north-east India, a look at the election results in north-east states in the recent years indicates a poor show in terms of women representation. The recent years’ elections in the states are not women friendly at all. Figures and numbers shows an otherwise not so positive signs of these ‘show of strength’ and much hyped “change” in the whole political developments in north-east India.
This 2018 election Tripura saw 3 women winners – all from CPI (M) party. Out of the total 297 candidates 20 were women contestants the polls. The result is a climb down from 5 women MLAs in the previous 2013 assembly.
In Meghalaya a total of 361 contested the 2018 election; out of these 31 were women candidates. Of these 3 women won the polls – 2 of them from Congress and one of the NPP. The number of women MLAs decline from 5 to 3 from the previous 2013 government.
Meanwhile a total of 196 candidates contested the polls in Nagaland, out which there were 5 women. None of them were elected! The trend remains the same as in other elections in state. The only silver lining perhaps is the number of women contesting state election went up this time. In 2008 election 4 women had contested, while in the 2013 polls only 2 women contested. It may be mentioned that Naga People’s Front that has ruled the state for more than 2 consecutive terms has never field any women candidates, let alone women winning the elections. The only woman who won election is Rano Shaiza who contested the Lok Sabha Polls in 1977.
This declining pattern of the number of women in the state assemblies has also been observed in the earlier election in other north-east states. In the 2016 Assam state election, out of the 1064 candidates, there were 87 women who contested the polls. Of these only eight candidates won the election – a decrease from the figure of 14 in 2011 election. Among the 8 MLAs 2 were from the ruling BJP.
In Manipur too, the pattern is similar. The trend though is not a positive picture. In the 2012 state election there were 15 women out of 273 candidates contesting the polls. Of these 3 women won the election. In 2017 election, out of 266 candidates there were 11 women contesting. Out of this 2 women won the election. This shows decline in number of candidates as well as number of winners. There was total number of 3 women MLAs in the previous 2012 state assembly. The figure came down to 2 in the 2017 election.
The pattern is no different in Arunachal Pradesh. The state assembly currently has only 2 women MLAs. In the 2014 election 7 women candidates contested out of the total 163. In the previous election there were 9 candidates of which 2 won the election.
“Change” was the catch word in the 2014 general election, and so are the state elections. Particularly in north-east states, there was a surge of hope, of real transformation.
Indeed change is much needed, particularly in north-eastern states. But the change that has been witnessed over the recent years is in-fact a down sliding of representation on the gender front.
Female voter make up half of the population of electorates. In some states such as Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh female voters even outnumber male voters. In Meghalaya there are 9,13,683 female voters as against 8, 96135 male voters. In Manipur there were 9,68 312 female voters as against 925431 male. Voting too mostly saw women of all ages coming out to exercise their franchise. As in 2013 electoral rolls in Mizoram there are 3,49,506 female voters, the number of male voters is 3,36,799. There were 3,77,272 female voters as against 3,75,898 male voters in Arunachal Pradesh in the 2014 election.
For a real change to be witnessed, indicator in quantity – for a start the of women in local self government, the state assemblies should begin. This must in parallel also have more women candidates.
Until there is equal representation – at least a 33% representation in the house (s) upper, lower, state assemblies, locals, government can we proudly say there is
“change” and “ Achha Din” ?
Change cannot be only about ‘wiping out the congress, the left’ or ‘anti-incumbency’. Change should bring about transformation in the most crucial spaces – the parliament, assemblies and local self government(s).
By Swarna Rajagopalan
A procession of Assembly elections in 2017-18 makes it hard to stay caught up with gender analyses of the reportage. In early February, eminent political scientist James Manor published an article in the Economic and Political Weekly about the Karnataka elections. The article does not mention gender, or even women, anywhere.
With so many elections underway and as we already anticipate 2019’s General Elections, it may be useful to take quick stock of scholarship in this field.
Political science, as we know it now, is a field defined in the 20th century, through the lens of Euro-American politics. Democracy is the preferred form of government and elections the most recognisable feature and measure of democracy. Election studies are therefore an established sub-field, and even in India studies, elections are an important area of research.
Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal maps the field of Indian election studies. Typically, she tells us, that election studies focus on “the campaign, the vote, the announcement of results and subsequent government formation” and they may be case studies or survey research. Case studies have tended to be focused on particular constituencies or districts, and offer quite detailed information. While most of them are in political science, she points to sociological and anthropological approaches as well. While electoral surveys were introduced to India by Rajni Kothari and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, whose project Lokniti remains at their forefront, psephology was popularised by Prannoy Roy and his colleagues who made news with their projections and analyses.
Since the 1990s, Paul Wallace, Ramashray Roy and colleagues have been putting together analytical volumes after every Indian election. It was only in 2004 that these volumes, usually comprising state-wise chapters, began to have a ‘woman/gender’ chapter, reflecting the extent to which gender has become an important mainstream issue. The first one was written by Sikata Banerjee and the other two by Rainuka Dagar.
Feminist scholars have also been writing about women in politics, and naturally, elections feature. What are feminists who study political science writing about? Mainly inclusion. The what, how many, why and why not of women’s participation in politics is the first concern. This includes women’s entry into politics, their ability to contest elections (having the right, getting nominated), their access to campaign funding, their inclusion in decision-making roles and their career progression. Quotas and their working are a corollary interest, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) hosts the Gender Quotas Database, which is a terrific resource on the subject. Related to this, feminist scholars also ask why women find it so hard to enter and stay in politics and locate the answer in the prevalence of violence against women in politics. This is a growing research area, and violence against women in elections is an important dimension.
Neither the agenda of inclusion nor the question of violence feature significantly in mainstream election studies as yet. Manor’s article is not an exception.
Why this topic on this blog? Ideally, there should be a conversation between media coverage and academic writing on topics like elections which are anchored in the empirical. Media coverage should provide ‘first information reports’ on real-world trends that scholars pick up and study. Equally, the big picture or historical perspective academics can have should send journalists looking for similar or contrasting stories. But real life either does not allow or does not encourage this synergy, unfortunately. This quick survey with some links may at least lead some of us to explore academic studies a little further whether to be informed by them or to debunk them as irrelevant!
By Kalpana Sharma
This article in Scroll.in is a useful backgrounder on the issue of women contesting elections in Nagaland. It points out the complex web of customary laws, and how difficult it is for Naga women to carve out a space for themselves. It is always important to understand the context of these struggles which this article tries to do.
Submitted by North East Network (NEN) Nagaland
North East Network (NEN) is a women’s rights organization, working in the states of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Since 1995, NEN has been working on issues of Gender-based Discrimination and Violence against Women (GBDVAW), Governance, Natural Resource Management and Livelihoods, through community mobilisation, awareness raising, capacity building, research and documentation, networking and advocacy. NEN is committed to gender and social justice, and respect human rights of all.
In Nagaland, NEN has been working very closely with women farmers, home based workers and vendors in the districts of Kohima, Dimapur and Phek. It attempts to adequately address the livelihood rights of the diverse informal sector workers. NEN is a facilitator in visibilising the contribution of women workers in unorganised and informal sector to the nation’s economy. It attempts to ensure due recognition and support from the state to improve the lives and livelihoods of the women workers. It continues to build capacities of the women within its area of work to become self-reliant economically, socially and politically. (For for information, please visit www.northeastnetwork.org)
India’s democratic principles, found both in the constitution as well as in the spirit of its people need to be valued and sustained for more than one reason. Firstly, the duty of the government is to instill confidence in its citizens and secondly, to fulfill state obligations on sustainable development goals. It is therefore clear that the citizens of Nagaland are looking for a stable, efficient and honest government in the forthcoming 2018 elections. We, the North East Network (NEN) therefore lay our concerns with a hope for capable leadership, better governance and inclusive approach in its policies and programmes.
In Nagaland, agriculture and allied sector provide livelihoods to majority of its population. About 65% of women in Nagaland are directly involved in farming and food producing livelihoods, yet their participation and contribution continue to be unaccounted, unrecognised and unprotected. While agriculture has been the primary livelihood for many, women also are engaged in peripheral livelihoods such as weaving, vending, foraging, food processing.
We bring to light the frail situation of this large group of unorganised workers in the state. Hereby, we assert our inalienable human rights as framed in the fundamental principles of the UDHR and the Indian Constitution. Keeping in mind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) particularly #Goal 1: Ending poverty # Goal 2: Zero Hunger #Goal 5: Gender Equality #Goal 8: Decent work and Economic growth #Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and #Goal 13: Climate Action, the following (Key Asks)/Demands has been collectively consolidated over a number of consultations and discussions. We urge your leadership to take up the following points in your future plan of action.
A. Women and Livelihoods:
- Promote and support diversity-based ecological agriculture where small and marginal women farmers are involved. Support growing food crops to ensure food and nutritional security and protect the environment from adverse affects of chemical based farming. Ensure effective implementation of Nagaland State Organic Policy.
- Support for running seed banks: Recognise traditional knowledge of women farmers in conservation of genetic diversity and provide infrastructural support for women-led seed banks. Innovative indigenous practices of seed preservation, procurement and distribution which values traditional seeds of farmers need to be prioritised.
- Integrate with MGNREGS: Small and marginal women farmers should be recognised and supported to include their land based activities into Government programmes like MGNREGS. Strengthen and monitor existing guidelines on at least 60% allocation of MGNREGS funds for agriculture and allied activities in villages through development of land, water and trees.
- Mainstream women farmers in all Government programmes: Government should make policies which recognise women’s work in agriculture by providing support in all spheres of intervention related to rural farm livelihoods. Include and increase women farmers as farm extension workers and resource persons to bridge the information gap. Schemes and input services should be demand-driven.
- Adoption of appropriate technology for gender inclusiveness: This includes technical support for developing innovative women friendly tools and appropriate technology for hilly terrain. Innovative, cost effective food-processing technology to decrease drudgery should be developed and made available, accessible and affordable for women farmers.
- Enhance access to credit and working capital for women farmers and their collectives; provide infrastructure support, Kisan Credit Card and simplify procedures for opening bank accounts.
- Universal coverage for Social Security Schemes: All women workers from the informal sector/ farm women should be able to access universal coverage for all social security schemes such as pension, maternity entitlements, health, accident and life insurance. Activate the Nagaland State Unorganised Social Security Welfare Board and implement the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008 in reality.
- Recognise and promote traditional livelihoods such as loin-loom weaving and provide marketing linkages.
- Augment women’s access to market: Create infrastructure for affordable transportation of agricultural produce from rural to urban areas; develop collection centers in rural areas and dropping points in towns, enable women farmers’ access to markets.
- Recognise vending as a major livelihood initiative in urban poverty alleviation: Make street vendors an important component in the smart city plan as they are an integral part of the food distribution system. Create provision of vending zones for women street vendors, market yards for women wholesalers and suppliers. Take proactive role in allocating space to local women vendors in the market at affordable rent even for built up space. Ensure safe working spaces with adequate toilet infrastructure, effective waste management strategies, regulated and monitored taxation.
- Support for a State Policy for Street Vendors and implement the National Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014 and see that women are well represented in the town vending committees.
B. Women Safety & Political Participation
12. Ensure gender justice in political participation: Initiate gender inclusiveness and affirmative action in decision making bodies at diverse public and community institutions in both Rural and Urban Local Bodies.
13. Proactive implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, (PWDVA): Support the implementation of PWDVA adequately; allocate sufficient resources for facilitating its access in both rural and urban areas.
14. Ensure safety and security for women in their workplaces and in public places: Support the implementation of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. Establish functional Internal Committee (IC’s) and Local Committees (LC’s) at the district level as per the Act in every institution and jurisdiction related to workplace. This provides both formal and informal sector workers particularly vendors, domestic workers and daily wage earners access to the grievance redressal mechanism.
NEN in Nagaland representing the women’s voices and concerns hope that the specific Key Asks/Demands are seriously taken into consideration and adequate action by the aspiring Nagaland Legislative Assembly Members, policy makers and state implementers.
For North East Network (NEN) Nagaland