TODAY -

Climate change and conflict: Manipuri women are fighting a war for survival on two fronts

Rucha Chitnis *



Lalzamien observed that the rains had become capricious. The farmer from Churachandpur district of Manipur reminisced about ai-ruo, the November rain that brings out the crabs that crawl on the wet, muddy earth. In the Hmar dialect, ai is crab and ruo is rain.

Such a name for the rain elucidates how closely the lives of indigenous communities in these parts are interwoven with their natural environment.

"These days, the rains are unpredictable and this is affecting our harvest and farming cycle," said Lalzamien. In August, a heavy downpour triggered landslides that killed 20 people in neighbouring Chandel district. A few months later, floods submerged farms and small bridges as rivers swelled.

Mary Beth Sanate, secretary of the Rural Women's Upliftment Society, a civil society group in Churachandpur that works to empower women in matters of food security, livelihoods and human rights, said, "Climate change is affecting the livelihoods of rural communities. Small farmers are dependent on the monsoons, and unpredictable rainfall is affecting their income.

She added, "Our state does not have a concrete disaster policy, let alone a gender policy."

Climate and conflict:

Manipuri women have had to contend with much more than tumultuous weather as they inhabit one of the most militarised territories in India. A protracted conflict has seeded dozens of armed groups, leading to innumerable killings and gender-based violence, and leaving a trail of women widowed by gun violence.

Once an independent kingdom, Manipur was colonised by the British in 1891. Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh signed a merger agreement with India in 1949, which was contested as coerced by the Manipuri public, who considered it an assault on their independent democratic processes that were already in motion. Since then, the state has seen both liberation struggles and ethnic conflicts between various groups.

"There are nearly 20,000 gun widows in Manipur," said Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, a non-profit that offers livelihood and psychosocial support to women who are survivors of gun violence. "Our state has weapons flowing in from 13 countries, including the United States."

In the face of a changing climate, food insecurity and unspeakable violence, women in Manipur have a long history of organising and confronting unbridled power. In 1939, they staged a bold agitation against British imperialism in Nupi Lan or Women's War to protest free trade laws that spiked the price of rice. In 2004, 12 Manipuri mothers staged a naked protest outside the headquarters of the 17th Assam Rifles, a paramilitary unit accused of raping and killing Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri woman. This protest brought national and international visibility to the horrific sexual violence faced by women in a militarised state.

"When armed soldiers are patrolling, women are afraid to go into the forest alone and prefer to go in a group to gather fruits and other produce," said a woman farmer from Churachandpur. Conflict and militarisation restrict the mobility of rural women, posing a challenge to their food security.

Fight for inclusion:

Women's rights organisations in Manipur are amplifying the dialogue on the critical role of indigenous women as human rights defenders, peace-builders and natural resources managers who play a vital role in conserving community forests and biodiversity. "Women have a profound knowledge about forests and managing natural resources that is passed on as oral tradition," said Sanate. "It is critical that this knowledge is preserved to build the resiliency of communities to stop climate change and degradation of our natural resources."

The Rural Women's Upliftment Society trains farmers, like Lalzamien, on ecological farming and biodiversity-based food production to build resiliency and counter unpredictable weather. Lalzamien grows nearly 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables on her land. She said she used vermicompost (compost created from the use of earthworms) as a natural fertiliser and has planted nitrogen-fixing plants to improve soil health. "Chemical fertilisers hardened our soil, and are not good for our health," she observed.

Ecological farming advocates believe sustainable agriculture is important for carbon sequestration (the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) and reversing climate change.

Women's struggles:

Rural women's rights advocates like Sanate underscore that both climate change and conflict are not gender-neutral: they have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. When streams dry up due to deforestation, women bear the burden of walking longer distances to source water. Similarly, they bear the burden of caring for their families when gun violence affects men. "We need women to be part of key decision-making spaces to influence policy," said Sanate. "This cannot be a top-down solution. Women need to be an integral part of peace negotiations and designing climate change policies."

Shangnaidar Tontang concurs. As an advocate for the rights of women and small farmers, she has witnessed the impact of biodiversity loss and conflict on the lives of rural communities. "We need holistic sustainable development that protects our livelihoods, culture and natural resources," she said. "Food is a connected issue it is linked with our livelihood, rituals and health. We need to see issues in relationship with each other, not in isolation." Tontang is secretary of the Weaker Sections Development Council, a civil society group that empowers small farmers by promoting sustainable agriculture and livelihoods and through statewide advocacy to shift food policy in favour of marginalised communities and small producers.

Last year, when persistent rain triggered landslides in Chandel district, Tontang was one of the first responders. She mobilised her team and volunteers to lead outreach efforts to clear roadblocks that had trapped people in remote villages, preventing them from accessing essential commodities and services. "People were desperate, they were suffering terribly," she recalled. "They didn't have food to eat and couldn't reach health clinics for medical help. We mobilised support and resources and cleared road blocks in nearly 60 points."

Women's rights groups in Manipur have also been engaging in dialogue at state and regional levels to demand the inclusion of women in governance in the face of discriminatory customary laws. "Men are at the table making decisions while women are working on the ground, protecting their forests and patrolling the night in their communities to stop violence," Sanate said. "They are meditators, peace-builders, negotiators and caregivers. Customary laws need to be redefined from a gender perspective so that women can have control over their lives and wellbeing and shift policy."

It's not just in Manipur but across India that indigenous women's groups have begun to make linkages and see problems in relationship with each other. "The health of our lands and forests affects our food and livelihood security," said Tontang. "Women have that knowledge. And so we can't just pick up one issue as our agenda, because everything is inter-related and we see that."


* Rucha Chitnis wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 05, 2017.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Arambai show #2:: Gallery
  • Curtain Raiser of 'Oorja' :: Gallery
  • New Facebook page (Link) for e-pao
  • Are We Protecting Younger Generation?
  • Unconditional :: Poem
  • Koirengei: From airfield to a historical site
  • Aizawl FC: Winner I-League Football 2017
  • Director General Assam Rifles Visits
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Defeating the spirit of 2003 legislation
  • Shakuhachi meets Pena, Manipur & Japan
  • Rally against Phaknung rape :: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #2 :: Gallery
  • Shirui Festival: Where is it heading
  • 2nd Northeast Fiesta at Jalandhar
  • Partnership between science & spirituality
  • Earning our rights and privileges
  • If press is presstitute then how about them
  • CATA Cine Award :: Gallery
  • Ngaineikim, Lamgoulen, Dilimpou :: eMing
  • Tributes paid on Khongjom Day #2:: Gallery
  • Laishram Birendrakumar recieve Padmashri
  • Position of Women in India
  • A forced load on little angels
  • Involvement of Asian Development Bank
  • Politics of power
  • Modi walking on elusive Naga peace: Book
  • 433 recruits from NE join Delhi Police
  • Kei Onba Kom Gi Eshing :: Funga Wari
  • Sculpture at Ukhrul :: Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs Delhi United :: Gallery
  • Folk star Mangka goes global with Cla
  • Exploring pet grooming as career
  • The Shattered Visage :: Poem
  • LTC & travellling settlement
  • Workshop: Sustainable Skill Development
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Create two separate states out of Manipur
  • Northeast set to boost India's global IT
  • A word of caution for the BJP led Govt
  • For a better society, education is a must
  • April 14 : Another chapter of shame
  • 'Nura Pakhang'(Video) @Portugal:: Gallery
  • DIO inaugurated @Kangpokpi :: Gallery
  • 8th MU Annual Sports Meet #2 :: Gallery
  • The Real Purenba :: Folk Tales
  • Is cleanliness drive another publicity stunt
  • Time zone & daylight saving time for NE
  • Khongjom War observed at Delhi
  • A matter need to be pondered
  • Rongmei tribe recognition..withdraws
  • Seniors ask GoI to move peace process
  • People's Day likely from next month
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Mr India 2017- Ksh Bhaktakumar :: Gallery
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #1 :: Gallery
  • nuja (Nuja) :: Seireng
  • Paper trail of fake encounters in Manipur
  • Food & beverage of Zeliangrong #3
  • Let us switch on the living mode
  • Saying no to non-local appointment
  • Let adopted child knows the truth
  • Purul, Senapati :: 360 View Panorama
  • Play: 'It's a Myth' :: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #3:: Gallery
  • Relevance of ecotourism in the real world
  • World Malaria Day: End Malaria for good
  • The Bath :: Poem
  • Peeking through the FA pact
  • Leaking of the secret deal, another trick?
  • Tributes paid on Khongjom Day #1:: Gallery
  • Arm-Wrestling Championship :: Gallery
  • Curses come home to roost
  • Childhood hearing loss/deafness
  • Does India trade deficit with China matter
  • Silent protest against minors gang rape
  • B'pur citizens launch forum for development
  • Yes sir, yes sir syndrome
  • Cheiraoba Thabal @Singjamei:: Gallery
  • TBSFA Veteran Football :: Gallery
  • Saga of Herbert School Hostel
  • Disable for the disable person
  • Manipur : Charting the way forward
  • Uneasy Coexistence :: Poem
  • Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Rally
  • Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
  • Public Relations(PR) Day celebrations
  • Forest authority denies killing tiger
  • Education Minister needs to check
  • Sadar Hills Demand 2011-2017 : Timeline
  • Ethoi Oinam #1 (Actress) :: eRang
  • Angkor Wat , Cambodia #5 :: Gallery
  • Read all about Khongjom Day : History
  • Where Do Manipuris Come From ?
  • WW2 Bridge remain unnoticed by govt
  • I m not born to fulfill parent's dreams
  • 2nd Northeast Fiesta at Jalandhar
  • Filmmaker urged to make socially relevant
  • Bat for more people to people contact
  • Changing trend of journalism
  • Nura Pakhang : Music video
  • Cultural program @Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • puNsi (Punsi) :: Seireng
  • Faith, forgiveness & future
  • Rise of new hopes with BJP in Manipur
  • What is your keyword ?
  • Thanksgiving Function: NE people in Delhi
  • Condemns rape of two school children
  • Govt decision to make hindi compulsory
  • Expectations from the BJP led Govt
  • 6th Kangleipak Kang Trophy #2:: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #2:: Gallery
  • Victor Thoudam's It's A Myth :: Synopsis
  • The end of history & Manipur!
  • From Imphal with love
  • License to kill in Manipur
  • Jobs at JCRE Skill Solutions
  • Central Working Committee of TSA
  • Lajong NE Diaries cross 1 Million Views
  • Nagas in Cambodia
  • Addressing VIP culture : No to beacon lights
  • SC judgment to extra-judicial killings
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba @Pune :: Gallery
  • 8th MU Annual Sports Meet #1 :: Gallery
  • Career options after 10 + 2
  • Computerization of land records in Manipur
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba organized at Pune
  • Sattriya Dance: Assam's classical dance
  • Phynyx in Classic Nostalgia at Imphal
  • Beginning of the end of Cong ?
  • Please be serious on road accident
  • Thabal Chongba @Kolkata :: Gallery
  • CM N Biren visit to Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • National Mathematics Day :: Gallery
  • What Ails India's North East? :: Review
  • Commercialization of transgender event
  • Urges Manipur Govt to desist Mapithel dam
  • Mathematics Day at Oriental College
  • Ministers inspect Chandranadi Riverbanks
  • DG IIMC & ADG IIS visit Manipur
  • Manipur duo net London goal
  • Battle of Khongjom : 2 dates for 1 battle
  • Action appreciative, fishy in replacement
  • Governor Trophy Junior Tennis #2 :: Gallery
  • 7th UGC ROP must be Empowering ...
  • Imphal Talkies in my town
  • A new perspective of urban planning
  • The morning dew :: Poem
  • Assam Rifles Ex-servicemen Rally
  • Challenges of heading a coalition Govt
  • Cheirao-chingkaba :: Gallery
  • Tangkhul Dance @Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • 1st People's Day @Jiri :: Gallery
  • Some Canadian Ideas For School Education
  • Manipuri is a classical language
  • NEROCA FC :: Group Photo
  • Dont make it another Publicity stunt
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa -Apr 14 :: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #1:: Gallery
  • CM Reception @Khwairamband :: Gallery
  • Wanted: Manipur River Protection Force
  • BSNL broadband condition in Tamenglong
  • April Showers - Sketches :: Poem
  • Websites launches on Digital Manipur
  • MHRD-University Ranking: Status of MU
  • Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Assam met CM
  • Against notice served to Dr. Kamei @JNIMS
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #4 : Ooba
  • 'Manipur Govinda' (Play) #2 :: Gallery
  • Superstition, oath & ordeal of Koren
  • CM N Biren visit to Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • Shumang Leela Day :: Gallery
  • Yaikhomba Mutum selected at Cambridge
  • Earthern Pottery- Thongjao #1 :: Gallery
  • Trip to Kamjong district :: Gallery
  • Hanubi & Hanuba : Downloadable Folktale
  • Career planning after Class X #2
  • CCMT: MTech Admission at NIT Manipur
  • Thousands welcomed CM in Ukhrul
  • Thoubal Keithel #2 :: Gallery
  • Cheirao-chingkaba [Mar 29] #3 :: Gallery
  • Thabal Chongba @Mysore :: Gallery
  • Nungshiba Khongel @Sylhet :: Gallery
  • Dance movement Takao Kawaguchi's way
  • The man who bridges Manipuri Meiteis...
  • Convention & Nungshiba Khongel at Sylhet
  • Shuri Kaso Phanat (Garlic Fest) :: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports #6 (Mar 16) :: Gallery
  • Landslide @Sirarakhong, Ukhrul:: Gallery
  • Meitei Pokpi :: Radio e-pao
  • Arambai Exhibition Show #1:: Gallery
  • Nongmai Kainou Chingsomba #2:: Gallery
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa [Mar 29] #2:: Gallery
  • Last rites of Sunder Gopal :: Gallery
  • Manipur raiding Burma (1600 - 1850)
  • Cheirao-chingkaba [Mar 29] #2 :: Gallery
  • Trip to Tamu, Myanmar #1: Gallery
  • Hangmila Shaiza: First Woman MLA
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #1 :: Gallery
  • Maphou Dam :: 360 View Panorama
  • Landscape of Manipur #5: Wallpaper
  • SPONSORED ADS