For a state that came into existence in 1963, Nagaland has not yet elected a single woman representative in the Assembly. But things might change as five women have filed their nominations for the elections scheduled to be held on 27th February.
Of the 227 candidates who have filed nominations, The National People’s Party has fielded two women candidates Wedie-U Kronu and Dr K Mangyangpula, an alternative medicine practitioner while Nationalistic Democratic Progressive Party and the BJP have fielded one woman candidate each, Awan Konyak, daughter of four-time MLA Nyeiwang Konyak, and Rakhila. The fifth woman, Rekha Rose, is contesting as an independent candidate. The only woman Parliamentarian who was elected to Lok Sabha in 1977 was Rano Shazia in 1977. The ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the Congress have not given tickets to women candidates.
BJP’s Rakhila is contesting for the second time on BJP’s ticket, having lost in 2013 by 800 votes. As per Nagaland Gender Statistics, 2016, women in Nagaland have a high literacy rate of 76% as compared to the National average of 65% and are well represented in Government jobs (23.5%) and private sector (49%). However, women do not enjoy the right to inherit property and are yet to be represented in elected bodies like municipal councils and state assembly. Tribal customary laws of Nagaland are protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution which excludes women from village councils. While they have 25% reservation in village development boards, they don’t have much say in crucial matters.
In 2016, acting on a petition by the Naga Mothers Association (NMA), the Supreme Court had directed the Nagaland Government to conduct municipal polls with 33% reservation for women. But the violent protests and stiff opposition to reservation forced the NMA to withdraw its name from the petition. The NMA has been fighting a battle in Nagaland to ensure reservations for women.
Will Nagaland see its first woman MLA? Let us wait for the 3rd March verdict.