New Delhi: Hekani Jakhalu — a Delhi University alumnus, lawyer, social entrepreneur and activist — became the first woman to ever enter the Nagaland Assembly, when she was declared elected from the Dimapur III constituency Thursday, on a Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) ticket.
Two other women, Salhoutuonuo Kruse, a businesswoman and social activist, and Kahuli Sema, a senior technical assistant in the department of Geography at Nagaland University, are also leading.
Kruse is fighting on an NDPP ticket from the Western Angami constituency and Sema on a BJP ticket from Atoizu. However, Congress candidate Rosy Thompson is trailing in Tening. Of the 183 candidates in the fray this time — one candidate has already been elected unopposed — four are women.
Jakhalu fought off a challenge from the Lok Jan Shakti Party and independent candidate Kahuto Chishi Sumi, who had generated a lot of enthusiasm with his promise to fight a clean election.
She has a degree in law from the University of San Francisco, where she went after completing her graduation from Delhi University. The BJP-NDPP candidate had rolled out the big guns, such as Assam Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to campaign for Jakhalu.
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Women’s representation in Nagaland politics
Nagaland has a poor record of women’s representation in politics, even though women play a very important role in both the economy and in social organisations in the state. Village councils have women members, but the perception of their role is that they are there merely to do the cooking and tea-making chores that have to be done to cater to council members during meetings.
Women tend to vote according to the directions of either the head of the family or the head of the village, and rarely engage in discussions about the state of politics, though in many families they are among the earning members.
According to data from Ashoka University’s Trivedi Center for Political Data, a total of 21 female candidates have contested in eight of the 21 assembly and by-elections (preceding the current Assembly election) held in Nagaland since the formation of the state. The state has had only two women MPs to date.
This despite the fact that at 76.11 per cent female literacy rate, Nagaland is above the national average of 64.6 per cent and women’s organisations — like the Naga Mothers’ Association, a civil society organisation — yield considerable influence.
Till date, only one woman has been elected as chairperson of any village council in Nagaland — Tokheli Kikon of the Naharbari village council in Dimapur, in 2005 — who went on to repeat the feat.
The state got its second woman parliamentarian — after Rano M. Shaiza’s Lok Sabha win in 1977 — last year, when Phangnon Konyak was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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