Between 2019 and 2021, about 85% of women in Nagaland over the age of 5 had attended school. India’s average was only 72%. Less than 6% of Nagaland women aged 20-24 years, married before turning 18. India’s average was over 23%. Only 29% of Nagaland women were anaemic, while India’s average was double that. Over 99% of married women in Nagaland participated in key household decisions and only about 6% had experienced spousal violence — about five times lower than India’s figure.
And yet, in the 14 Assembly elections conducted between 1964 and 2018, Nagaland has not elected even one woman MLA. In the 2023 election, Nagaland got its first two women MLAs. Hekani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo Kruse from the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), won from the Dimapur-III and Western Angami, respectively.
The dearth of women MLAs was not just because they did not win elections, but even among the candidates, representation was poor. The number of women candidates has not crossed six in any of the 14 State polls conducted. In fact, in five elections the number of women candidates was zero. In two elections, it was just one.
Even in 2023, of the 183 candidates in the fray, only four are women. However, in the State, the number of women electors is similar to that of men. Of the 13,17,632 voters, 6,61,489 are men, and 6,56,143 are women. The four women candidates are Hekhani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo of the NDPP, Rosy Thompson of the Congress, and Kahuli Sema of the BJP.
In 2018, Awan Konyak of the NDPP narrowly missed making history in 2018 when her Naga People’s Front (NPF) rival defeated her by 905 votes (8%) to bag the Aboi Assembly constituency.
However, notably, way back in 1977, Nagaland had chosen a woman MP; Rano Mese Shazia was elected on a United Democratic Party ticket. Last year, another woman entered Parliament from the State with the BJP nominating S Phangnon Konyak as the Rajya Sabha member from Nagaland.
This trend of being socially empowered but politically underrepresented, can be observed across most of the northeastern States.
Chart 1A shows the female population aged over 5 years who ever attended school. Chart 1B shows women aged 15-49 years who were anaemic. Chart 1C shows women aged 20-24 years who married before turning 18. Chart 1D shows the share of currently married women who usually participated in key household decisions. Chart 1E shows the share of married women aged 18-49 years who have ever experienced spousal violence. The data for all charts was as of 2019-21.
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In general, in charts 1A to 1E, Nagaland stands out as a top performer in most counts, closely followed by other northeastern States. In fact, across all indicators, the figures of most northeastern States were better off than India’s average. This data shows that women in the northeast are relatively more empowered socially.
Table 2 shows the average share of women MLAs in State legislatures in the three 10-year periods between 1993 and 2022. In the three northeastern States for which 2023 State election results will be announced this week, the average share has not crossed 7% in any of the decades. Except for Sikkim, and to an extent Assam, all other States have had a very poor representation of women in their legislatures in all the periods and are at the bottom of the table.
Whereas, States such as Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal, which fare poorly in various women empowerment indicators in charts 1A to 1E, are on top of Table 2.
The data from table 2 pertains to elections conducted between 1993 and 2022
(With inputs from PTI)
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