Kohima, Feb 16: In Nagaland, political realities are diametrically opposite to social realities. Like in the rest of the country, the Naga society too is patriarchal in nature where man of the house is the boss.
However, women in the state can't be called as the weaker gender as they are as good as men in terms of education, social security and jobs, among other parameters.
But look beyond the obvious, it is a shocking picture. When it comes to decision making, women leaders (in the sphere of politics) remain non-existent in Nagaland.
The hill state, which is going to vote for a new Assembly on February 27, is yet to have a woman legislator. Nagaland has been declared a state 54 years ago. The state has hosted 12 Assembly elections so far. Unfortunately, the state is still waiting to get a woman legislator.
The only woman who had ever won an election in Nagaland was late Rano Shaiza. The deceased politician was a member of the United Democratic Party (UDP). She was the first and only woman in the state who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977. She died of age-related ailments in 2015.
This upcoming election, Nagaland is hoping to change its tradition of having no woman legislator. A total of five women are contesting the Assembly polls, the results of which will be out on March 3.
If there are five women, a total of 190 men are in the fray for the 60-member Assembly elections. While Wedie-u Kronu and Mangyangpula are contesting the polls on National People's Party (NPP) tickets from Dimapur-III and Noksen Assembly constituencies, Rakhila is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee from Tuensang Sadar-II seat.
Awan Konyak of the newly-formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) is fighting the election from Aboi seat and Rekha Rose Dukru is an Independent candidate from Chizami constituency.
The ruling Naga People's Front (NPF), however, has not fielded any women candidates this time. In order to defend its decision not to give tickets to women politicians, NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu said: "No woman in the party has shown interest in contesting the polls."
Barring Rakhila, the four other women candidates are first timers. The BJP nominee is the wife of former minister and four-time legislator Lakiumong, who died in 2006 after a prolonged illness. Rakhila lost the last election from the same Tuensang Sadar-II seat by around 800 votes.
"Men in power do not perform. I will do what they haven't done so far," said Rakhila. NDPP candidate Awan Konyak is daughter of four-time former MLA Nyeiwang Konyak, who passed away earlier this month.
"Women make significant contributions to society every day. Their problems, however, are often ignored. I want to focus on gender equality and women empowerment," she said.
Mangyangpula, an alternative medicine practitioner, said Noksen is 100 per cent ready for a woman leader. "The ground reality in this constituency is horrible even after 50 years of the state formation," she said.
Men and women together in the 60-member House will make a lot of difference, Rekha Rose Dukru, an entrepreneur-turned-politician, opined.
Wedie-U Kronu, a social worker, feels women can bring positive changes in society. "It is difficult to clean the system of corruption. I entered politics to bring about a change in the system," she said.
All five of them have been campaigning on social media for a few weeks. Welcoming the women candidates, Nagaland Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Abhijit Sinha, said the number has increased from two in last elections to five this time.
The adviser of Naga Mothers Association (NMA), a top women's body in the state, Rosemary Dzuvichu, said, "We are happy to see these women step into the fray. All women voters in these constituencies must support and vote for them."
Women participation is equally important as that of men, said social activist and entrepreneur Elu Ndang. "We should encourage Naga women to participate in the decision-making bodies," she said.
Priscila Ao, a college-goer, said that it was shameful that the state did not elect a single woman legislator till now. "This time we are hoping for a change. I appeal to the people to elect all these women leaders irrespective of their party affiliations and send them to the Assembly.
"I am sure all the five politicians are worthy to represent us and will work for Nagaland's betterment," smiled the teenager, who is going to vote for the first time in the upcoming elections.