Achieving an equal future for women in a COVID-19 world: Will it be possible?

Written By: / Editorial / Monday, 08 March 2021 17:46

This year the world celebrates International Women’s Day on the theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. Last year after around two weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, it was the Womenfolk of Manipur – running the Ema Keithel, who first sacrificed their personal gains and shut down the three Ema Keithel before the Prime Minister of India announced total shut down across the country, to make sure that the spread of the virus is contained.

In Manipur, women were and are always at the forefront when it comes to the protection of the state no matter how struggled to live life in our male-dominated society. Much have been talked and discussed about empowering of women but the conclusion of those discussions have never happened and the condition of women was the same as before. They have done well this time too, without bothering on whether there will be quality among the male and female community in the post-COVID-19. And what is ironic is the preoccupied mindset of the male in our society about their attitude towards the female. 

We all know that today the 8th of March has been celebrated as International Women’s day since 1975 with a vision to uphold the rights of women from generation to generation. The day is being celebrated across the world to show respect to the women community and also to uplift them from the crunch of the male-dominated society. It is also celebrated to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the globe.

Well, the observation of the day has its root in New York. The mass protest of the women garment worker in 1908 demanding improvement of their working conditions had brought significant changes to the condition of women.

Like every nation across the globe, the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur had witnessed various historic events. The first Nupi Lal of 1904 and the 2nd Nupi Lal of 1939, are some of the events where Manipuri women's contribution towards bringing a change in society is worth remembering. In addition, the recent decision of the ladies (Ema) of Khwairamband Keithel to shut down in wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is also worth mentioning.

Unlike the western countries which celebrate International Women’s Day, the kind of observation being taken place in a place like Manipur is different – Women’s day being observed by various organizations in the state is rather to find a solution to the problems being faced by the women of today’s Manipuri society. And unlike in the mainland Indian states and other developed and developing countries, the issues are of the women here in Manipur are very different.

There are certain issues like domestic violence, rape, and crime against women, issues of widows, orphan girl child may be somewhat similar in almost all human society. But the kind of subjugation being faced by the women of Manipur under the draconian laws and the women becoming the most vulnerable object during a conflict between non-state actors and state actors is serious.

The practice of polygamy in society and peoples’ acceptance of it, either willingly or unwillingly is somewhat suppressing the rights of women.

The issue of polygamy in Manipur has its root in the feudal character of the society.

On the other hand, Manipur’s societal structure is always seen as a male dominating society even after knowing that women have been always at the forefront – whether it may be fighting against immoral activities, drugs, or wrongs of the government besides taking an active role in supporting their respective family economically.

Culturally women are still forbidden to take the lead role. For example, women are not allowed to do Keinya daan during the marriage of her daughter when she is the only parents left. A widow with only daughters still has to wait for some male relative to perform the last rite of her husband or near and dear one. In both Sanamahi and Manipuri Vaishnavite culture, women are always told to follow the male. They are not allowed to sit at ‘Phambal’- a place where the head of the family often sits. This means that women are never considered as the head of the family.

On the other hand, women are deprived of their rights in getting their share from their parental family. The law of this land says that daughters or sons should have equal rights when it comes to inheriting properties. In Manipur society, daughters once married are considered separated entirely from their parental family.

Out of the 60 assembly seats, women can occupy only 2 in the state assembly. The people had witnessed the assembly house with a maximum of 3 women MLAs. There is hardly any representation of women in Parliament and it is unfortunate for a developing country to not include its women in the process. The observance of International Women’s  Day under the theme PressForProgress seems to have lost its significance as long as the women are not empowered to represent in the decision-making body of the country as well as in the state.

Issues of the women are understood by women and without their presence it is useless to whatever welfare programme taken up for the women.  Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao , Ujjawala Yojna, maternity leave schemes advertised today in some leading newspapers are valueless unless they are not empowered to sit among the male in the decision making body.

About the Author

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 25+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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