Wekoweu (Akole) Tsuhah, from a rural community in Nagaland, India, is the first generation of women in her family to have been educated. She spoke to UN Women during the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women about the situation of women in her community, and what they want.
Everyone does farming in my community. I am educated, I have a job, but I continue to farm with my family. But women are not recognized as farmers because they do not own land and resources.
In Nagaland, we have two different types of agriculture—the slash-and-burn agriculture, which we call “jhum”, and terrace cultivation, which needs irrigation. Now with climate change, the rainfalls are erratic and monsoon is coming late. Jhum is still possible, with delayed or less rain, but we need the men to help prepare the land. And many of the younger men in the community are moving away from agriculture.
Until recently, women were completely excluded from decision-making at the village council level. My village, Chizami, appointed the first woman in the local council in 2002. We have been sensitizing the local councils and the villages in this region on the importance of women’s participation in governance.
The women councilors helped us push forward the agenda of equal wages between men and women for unskilled, agricultural work. It took us eight – nine years of advocacy to convince the community about equal wages. At first, the men said it was a taboo for women and men to earn equally. Then they said, ‘give some respect to the men, they are the heads of families’. Finally, we got some influential men in the communities involved. When they spoke up in favour of equal wages, other men listened.
The women councilors also helped with installment of separate public toilets for women and girls.
What women in rural communities want is recognition and support for what they are doing to ensure food and nutrition security of their families and countries, for instance, through bio-diverse cultivation and growing climate-resilient crops. They want access to technology that can alleviate the drudgery of the work they do. They want support to access markets, so that when they go to the nearby towns to sell their produce, they have secure vending spaces and access to transportation.
Women have the solutions…they want a platform to be heard.”
Wekoweu (Akole) Tsuhah, 35 years old, is from Nagaland, north-east part of India. She works with the North East Network (NEN), a women’s rights organization aiming to advance rural women’s rights through organizing, awareness raising, capacity building, and networking with local governments. NEN is also part of MAKAAM, (Forum for the Rights of Women Farmers), which is supported by UN Women. Her work contributes towards a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—SDG 2, which aims to end hunger and promote sustainable agriculture, SDG 5, which aims to achieve gender equality, SDG 13, which promotes mechanisms to combat climate change and its impacts, as well as SDG 15, which promotes sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, combating desertification and ending land degradation and biodiversity loss.
North East Network (NEN) are in the Board of NESFAS and they are our strong partner.