By Vitono Gugu Haralu | March 8, 2018
I write this as a concerned person and as a Naga woman living in Nagaland.
I have often praised and acknowledged men from my community in raising me up with their unconditional support and trusting me to participate in most activities they were involved in, all at par and with equality. Yes, there were many instances where I was rejected and ignored mostly in silence. And with time I also learned how they function to make you leave the space, on your own.
I have lived most of my childhood and adulthood in Delhi. Exposed to the best and the worst of the city life. Nurtured and groomed naturally and as well by compulsion to survive and also grow beyond those limitations set in front by default. Today, wherever I am, whoever I am has to be attributed to a lot of contribution played by both men and women in my life. And a lot also to my persistent stubbornness to prove my worth.
When I look back into my life as a daughter, sister, and as a woman of faith, I must say I had my share of atrocities from within and outside as well. And the struggle continues. The anger management I was often told to take was spoken to me without even trying to talk to me. It was a straight cut advice and suggestion. Nobody had time to listen to me. Drawing conclusion about my openness and expressions were interpreted at others’ will and likes. Yet, I pushed through and it has taken me 37 years till today to make a spot for myself.
I no longer strive to be in anybody’s good books nor say the words to please people’s egos and pride. Even after being told from my childhood and till today that women in general in our Naga society should behave and act in a certain way, most times I found it very negative and suppressive by nature. I defied those teachings because somewhere in my heart and soul I knew it was not right for me. I began to speak my mind and expressed my thoughts and feelings in many forms, which many found too much to handle. With time, I have passed those walls and rather than making me weak it has empowered me to do what is right for myself and also move forward to do better in life.
Culturally and traditionally, I have been taught the best practices, but it also brought many downfalls to my approach in life. The sense of independence and confidence was lacking in my traditional teaching most of the times. I was always at war for I felt suppressed and underestimated to qualify to participate and even give my personal individual opinion as a child, as a teenager, and a woman even. The challenges were growing in enormous strength and I had to fight my way through all alone until the search to seek who I am and who I was meant to be, was found in CHRIST alone. The very reason of my existence became a big giant question as a child. The phase of identity crisis was lingering in the journey of present and future and I was losing my hope in myself and the world I was living in.
I find today very appropriate to write my thoughts in the shortest form with no formal trainings or guidance and I am hoping I am able to convey my heartfelt concerns and experience about what it is like to be a woman and to be part of the big family as a proud NAGA.
The very reason that prompted me to write this piece of my mind, and yes it has a lot of personal experiences shared in a nutshell, was because I found it very essential to speak this time after having seen and witnessed the atrocities and violence meted towards our Naga women at this present modern time. It is shocking and at the same time heartbreaking.
The very unique culture and traditions that bind us together as one family and a community as NAGAS irrespective of tribes we belong to, I thought humanity was at the core in our human values and ethics in our woven Naga lives.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides the following definition of violence against women:
“Violence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Having said so much now, with Women’s Day today, I am torn apart how our women are treated with humiliation and assaults after assaults. Is this what God wanted us to be?
We have broken all human empathy and compassion towards one another and for what? Selfishness and greed. Not wanting to listen to God who we always begged to grant us our wishes, we disobey what he asks us to do. Our stubborn hearts and minds have made us all about me and myself. And we can see our people have gone blind already.
Today, I cry for the women of courage, yet embrace their endurance for standing tall amid persecution in the hands of those who called themselves authority over everything and have done wrong to others for short term gains this time during election and in the past incidents.
I dedicate this day to all our women, a day that you and I will pursue God’s will and declare to walk through the toughest hours to do what is right beyond boundaries laid by the world.
Remember: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made!” Psalms 139:14.
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