By Awan Konyak:
The recently concluded assembly elections in Nagaland saw the maximum percentage of women candidates. I was among those five candidates. Although all the women lost, I think I should share my political journey with the fellow women of the country.
My opponent got 6036 votes. I got 5131. We did our best against all odds. The representation of women in all state assemblies is quite small. The national average is less than 10 percent.
How does this happen? We are steeped in a patriarchal society, where from birth itself the male child is given priority. With the kind of upbringing children in India get, a girl child is also brought up in an environment where she considers herself ‘lesser’ or ‘inferior’ to her brothers. This obviously shapes her thinking as she grows up.
This patriarchal structure is as true for Nagaland as it is for the rest of India. Only the way in which it operates in Nagaland is somewhat different. The village councils of the state, a body that has huge influence and power in the state, have hardly any women. This limits the role of the women in every aspect of life, including politics. No wonder, only 14 women had contested state elections before this year’s elections, and nobody had won.
Despite this apparent lack of precedent, I learnt from where I could. My father had first contested elections before he even married in 1974. So from early childhood, politics and political talks became a part of our daily life. Moreover, I used to be the one who would be constantly with my father on official tours. So it was natural for me to be inclined towards politics. However, I didn’t just let this remain an interest. I actively contested an election.
In the election, my people supported me. They know me well, and there was no problem in accepting my candidature. It was only my opponent who focused on the gender issue as one of their election propagandas. In facing this, I was very fortunate to have the full support and backing of my party – the NDPP – which believes in gender equality.
This election apart, I think more women should contest elections in Nagaland. Only then the state can experience, even if for a change, the difference of having women as law makers. Women have anyway juggled their social role of being wife, a mother, and a daughter. We are good at multi-tasking. We can take care of politics too. An increased participation of women in the General Elections will hopefully be an eye-opener for not only women, but all the people in Nagaland to start accepting women in the role of a politician. This is not to say that we are just capable of becoming lawmakers. It is only natural that having women on-board will lead to an inclusive approach to policy-making, which will benefit men, women, and young people at the same time.
Nagaland is not too much of an outlier. Women are underrepresented in politics in the rest of India too. I think the politics of the world would be much better if more women join politics. Women are sincere, detailed, and patient, which can help in policy-making and in choosing programmes that directly benefit people from the grassroots level. Women’s rise in politics is not just a women’s movement. It’s for the benefit of all.