Exactly a week has passed since last Friday (March 8) when the world celebrated the International Women’s Day. After that we didn’t hear a whimper on women and gender issues from anyone. As last year, there was no “greetings” to women of Nagaland from either the Governor or the state Government on this International Women’s Day ~ but then neither did the President nor the Prime Minister of India remember women of this country on that day. Clearly, in our patriarchal scheme of things women simply do not count ~ never mind beti bachao, beti padeo and all such slogans. So the questions that must necessarily be asked are: how do women see ourselves? How do we place ourselves in this patriarchal scheme of things now ~ after having traversed thus far in a world that is increasingly claiming more space for women? And, now with the Lok Sabha elections knocking at our door, what political dispensation do we think would best serve us? Or, as before are Naga women content to follow Naga men’s dicta on electoral politics ~ indeed, in other politics too? Of course, most political parties here would, most probably and very possibly, begin electioneering listing the “achievements” of their Governments, which are all centrally-sponsored schemes. Do women of Nagaland remember a single scheme for women, which has been solely conceived, sponsored and executed by any Government of Nagaland ~ say in the past fifteen to twenty years? Perhaps that is the reason why our political parties remain silent on women and gender issues ~ knowing how appallingly they have let down the women of Nagaland. But despite that, we women continue to unfailingly walk two steps behind our men every which way, especially in the realm of politics, which is bewildering. The path towards women’s active participation in decision-making is strewn with punishing thorns and the very centre-stage of the arena of politics is held like an impenetrable fortress by the hardened branches and barks of the tree of culture, customs and traditions ~ however, what about conscience voting, especially amongst so-called educated and enlightened women? We have seen domestic violence and other forms of violence perpetrated on women, who have defied the dicta of men in our previous elections ~ why have we remained silent about that? Will we see a repeat of past elections vis-à-vis women’s voices and votes on electoral politics or would our women, especially women organizations, leaders and activists sound the bell of change this time by fore-fronting women and gender issues and demanding they are prioritized in the manifestoes of our political parties? Isn’t it strange that we remain silent when a non-performing “asset” is re-nominated yet again as the jittery ruling parties’ candidate for the Lok Sabha elections and dynastic trend, not merit, is considered the best bet for the ruling parties for the bye-election for 29 Aonglenden Assembly Constituency? Would the Opposition and internally-squabbling NPF and the marginalized but slowly rejuvenating Congress in the state follow suit? Are our political parties totally bankrupt in ideas and credible candidates? Isn’t it time for women of Nagaland to stand up and speak, to ideate and to offer viable alternatives to the political narratives that have been told and retold ad nauseum these past decades, which have failed us every which way? While it would be ridiculous to expect women to have only one perspective of our political, economic and social truths, surely it is possible that a convergence of all our truths can become our unified agenda for the future? Isn’t it time that such a unified agenda be informed to our political parties so that they can use it as a blue-print to base their manifestoes and policies? Oh, but would they pay heed to a women’s unified agenda? Oh, but would our men fossilized into the fossils of culture, customs and traditions allow such a women’s unified agenda to be pursued by political parties ~ seeing that our political parties have developed the habit of out-sourcing governance to fossilized organizations after forming the government? Somehow women of Nagaland need to chart our own paths this election ~ because the overly-trodden paths charted by our men have led us nowhere. No future lies at the end of nowhere paths we have mindlessly and mechanically followed all these decades.