The Lympung Ki Seng Kynthei (LKSK) held a discussion on Saturday on the participation of women in politics, particularly in the traditional institutions of the Khasi community, such as Dorbar Shnongs.
MPR Lyngdoh, LKSK adviser, addressed the gathering and also responded to queries and suggestions given by the other women. The organisation’s president, Theilin Phanbuh, said that they take pride in seeing women breaking stereotypes as there are many women who are either part of the state legislature, senior members of the bureaucracy and also members of the autonomous district councils.
However, Phanbuh felt that though the state is celebrating its 50th anniversary of statehood, things have not changed in terms of allowing women to be decision makers in the local dorbar.
“We are concerned about the local dorbar. We want women to have an opportunity to participate. If any problem is faced by women, it is necessary for women to be part of the decision making process so that they can deal with the situation accordingly,” Phanbuh said.
The LKSK is an apex body comprising 28 women’s organisations in East Khasi Hills District.
The issue of female representation in Dorbar Shnongs and other traditional governance bodies of the Khasi community has been a vexed one for many years now.
According to custom, women are not allowed to participate in the local dorbar but the LKSK feels that the time is ripe for change.
“From Ka Lympung Ki Seng Kynthei, we have sent a memorandum in the past and we have been raising this issue since 2011. Recently, we met with the Chief Executive Member of the KHADC but so far nothing has come through,” Phanbuh said.
The LKSK carried out a small survey of its own which found that men, in general, had no problem with women’s participation in the local dorbar but they also felt that it needed the go-ahead from the district council first.
Lyngdoh stated that in some localities women have been allowed to participate in the local dorbar as executive members but there are still some neighbourhoods and villages that still deny women the right to sit in local dorbar meetings.
“Traditionally women were not allowed but, now with the change in the state and country, we need women at the grassroots. In the Panchayati Raj more than 50 percent of women are participating but here we want women to be a part of the decision making process right from the grassroots so that they can see things with their own eyes, discuss the issues related to women from the women’s point of view,” Lyngdoh stated.
Concerning the lack of female participation in politics, she said that there can be several contributing factors.
“I think women are not willing to participate since they don’t want to get into the stress of public life…they are very careful about their family. Once they go into politics, they have to be available 24/7. That can be one reason contributing to it,” Lyngdoh said. “Another reason may be that women still feel that politics is a male domain and we see how dirty politics is these days. So perhaps women don’t want to get involved in all that.”
This lack of female political representation can have serious consequences. During the open discussion, one member said that women who face domestic violence or rape can feel isolated without women in positions of power. If abuse and rape victims approach the male centric dorbar or police force, their complaints sometimes go nowhere as they are pressured to compromise with their male attackers.