Women in Politics: The Northeast Context

Northeast states, which otherwise, are known for equality and safety of women in the region, doesn’t seem to be so when it comes to politics and state governance.

In the recent Manipur cabinet reshuffle, the lone woman minister in the state, Nemcha Kipgen, was dropped making it a male-only ministers running the state government.

It is interesting that in the 8 Northeast states with a total of 98 state ministers, there are only two women ministers as of now, one from Assam and one from Tripura (as per the data available in each govt websites). That is a mere 2% of women ministers in the region.

Meghalaya, though a Matrilineal Society failed to have any woman minister in the state cabinet. Meghalaya, however, has Agatha Sangma as their MP. Mizoram which is among the highest literate state in the country also failed to have a single woman minister.

It will not be wrong to say that Nagaland and Manipur have the most powerful women organizations in the country, which can take on any paramilitary forces, government, or society. However in spite of their bravery and leadership skills, these brave women leaders are yet to make a mark in the state politics. They are still confined to the women organizations.

According to unwomen.org, India ranks 149 in ‘Women in Politics: 2019‘ ranking, much below our neighboring countries like Nepal Rank 36, China Rank 73, Bangladesh Rank 97, Pakistan Rank 101, Bhutan Rank 136. Among the neighboring countries, India only ranks above Myanmar which is ranked at 158.

In the world context, as of 2015, women in every country in the world have the right to vote. As per UNDP, the first nation to grant female suffrage was New Zealand in 1893, and the last country was Saudi Arabia in 2015.

According to unwomen, the world average of women in parliament is 24.3%; and that of Asia is 19.6%. Though things have improved in recent years, progress is slow and uneven. According to UNDP, “women are still underrepresented in politics, parliaments, and public life. Attitudes towards women candidates are still largely characterized by deeply ingrained stereotypes, and political opponents will often use those stereotypes to question women’s capabilities”.

The Northeast region, with a mere 2% of women in politics (women in parliament) has a long way to go to cope up with the world average of 24% or that of Asia average of 19%.

And I do not know the cause for this extremely low rate, nor the answer to solving this. However, as a citizen, I would definitely love to see more women in our state governance.

And all I ask is, Can we have more women in politics?