GUWAHATI, Feb 16 - Denial of tickets to contest elections by political parties and the attempt to sideline women by leaders of traditional institutions are among the reasons for the low representation of women in decision-making bodies. This forms one of the major findings of a recent field-based study carried out in Nagaland, Meghalaya and the hill districts of Assam by the city based think-tank, Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS), a press release stated.
Experts and delegates from across the region as well as from outside participated in a daylong round table consultation here today on the completion of the study titled ‘Tribal Women’s Rights in Northeast India: Access to Representation and Justice.’ A documentary titled Northeast’s Women: The Road to Power, produced by CDPS and revolving on the theme of the study, was also screened on the occasion.
Delivering his inaugural address at the round table consultation, Justice DN Choudhury, former judge, Gauhati High Court, said a democratic nation like India must have equal status for both men and women, a place where the rule of law prevails and where everyone is entitled to enjoy his or her basic human rights. He lauded the initiative of the CDPS in carrying out the study which he described as a pivotal subject. The participants included political leaders, women activists, academics, social workers, government officials and others.
In his welcome address, Wasbir Hussain, Executive Director, CDPS, said, “Women have a high status in the Northeast, but the fact remains that we find very few women in decision-making positions. This is mainly due to poor representation of women in politics either because they themselves do not venture into this field or are denied opportunities to do so.”
The CDPS study has revealed that low awareness in the Northeast about gender equality and women’s rights is a major factor behind the poor representation of women in decision-making positions. It was found that low penetration of Internet services in many areas of Northeast India is a reason why there is low awareness about women’s rights among the tribal populations in the region.
Addressing the participants, Scott Furssedonn-Wood, BDHC, Eastern India, said, “It is a clear fact that women’s political and social participation achieves real changes, and no doubt by the end of this consultation we will be more clear on the steps needed to ensure greater involvement of women in areas of governance, policy and decision-making.”
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Seema Kazi, associate professor and senior fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, said that India’s record in terms of women’s political participation is paradoxical in that 16 of the last 50 years were occupied by a female in the executive office, yet women hold 11 per cent seats in Parliament and 10 per cent ministerial level positions.
Dr Jeuti Barooah, former Director, Law Research Institute, Gauhati High Court, and former professor and dean, School for the Study of Culture, Central University of Jharkhand, shared her experience on ‘Customary Laws in Northeast India: Impact on Women’s Access to Representation and Justice.’
Participating in the consultation, Dr Khakchang Debbarma, professor, Department of Political Science, NEHU, Shillong, made a presentation on ‘Challenges before Women in Matrilineal Meghalaya.’ Nandita Gorlosa, member, Make a Difference Society, Haflong, Assam, made another presentation on ‘Women Empowerment in Dima Hasao.’