Typical male egoistic catch phrases like ‘Hmeichhia leh pal chhia chu thlak mai tur’ or a woman and an old fence should be replaced,’ have been proved wrong with empowerment of women in traditionally strict patriarchal tribal society in Mizoram.
A visit to the main market in the capital city, Aizawl, reveals that almost all selling meat, including beef, fish and chicken are women.
It is not that the main employment of women in Mizoram is confined to selling meat, almost all vegetable sellers are women and a majority of shops which sell ready-made garments, shoes, groceries, books and imported electronics are mostly manned by them.
Rozami, President of the Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP) or Mizo Women’s Federation said that the organization’s message to the women in the state was that they could do everything men did has proved successful.
“The fruits of our efforts towards the success of women’s empowerment in the past 11 years have been demonstrated in many sectors,” Rozami said.
She, however, said that the MHIP taught its members to respect the authority of men as Mizo society followed the patriarchal system.
“We are not keen to invade the authority and jurisdiction of our men even if we have become empowered,” she said.
Social workers, who do not agree with the women organization leader, claimed that rampant drug addiction among the youth, had adversely affected the male workforce.
This opinion is supported by the fact that amongst the 1133 people killed by drugs in the state since 1984 till date, 1018 are men and the state excise department record says that a large majority of drug addicts are boys.
According to the latest figures in the Mizoram’s Statistical Handbook, at least one third of state government employees are women and in literacy also their number was very close to that of men.
The single area where women hold their heads high is in education and competitive examinations.
In most of the High School Leaving Certificate and Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate examinations conducted by the state board of school education, women dominated the results and a majority of those in the top ten were girls during the past five years.
Girls not only outshine boys at the school level, but also in college and in higher education.
The topper in the Mizo civil service competitive examination held this year was a girl closely followed by another.
More and more Mizo girls now join professions like medical, engineering, mass media and communication, management, computer engineering and IT, earlier unthinkable in tribal society.
One can see young girls in black advocate frocks in district courts in Aizawl while many judicial magistrates and judges are now women.
Though still dominated by outside businessmen, many women in Mizoram have also become contractors and suppliers, doing brisk business with the state government.
“Women are more persuasive and influential in dealing with top government bosses,” an official commented, adding they bagged more contracts than their male counterparts.
However, there are still some areas where women empowerment does not work.
Though the Presbyterian Church, the largest in Mizoram has many women who completed their Bachelor of Divinity and theological degrees, no woman has been inducted as pastor or priest, not even as pro-pastors (priests on probation).
Mafaki, the younger sister of Lalhmingliana, the lone Rajya Sabha MP from the state and one of the first Mizo women to complete her degree in theology is still denied looking after a pastoral and is now working in the office of the Presbyterian Church Synod, in Sunday School.
There are more than 30 graduates and above in theology including those having doctorate degrees in Mizoram, Mafaki said, adding some of them are working in theological institutions and church offices.
Saptawni, a resident of Mission Veng here, was elected by the local Presbyterian Church congregat ion as church elder in 1978, but the Presbyterian Church Synod refused to ordain her.
Though women are actively involved in church it is yet to accept them as leaders or forefront religious activists.
Another gray area for a Mizo woman is politics as only three women have been elected to the state assembly since its inception in 1972.
Lalhlimpuii, the Social Welfare minister during the short-lived Laldenga Ministry in 1987-88 was the only woman minister the state has ever have.
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