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Still down with Women’s Day Hangover? Reality Check with Joy Grace Syiem, North East Network , Meghalaya

By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | March 18, 2018

While the whole world went gaga over International Women’s Day on March 8, flooding social media walls and pages with ‘Happy women’s Day’ messages, hashtags pertaining to #ProudWoman, #UGoGirl and #WomenPower, the day saw great zeal and enthusiasm from all sections of society. However, this one particular group of people in Meghalaya do not believe in patronizing women only on March 8 but take it up as part of their work and profession in their day-to-day lives as well!

While there are many people and organizations in and around Meghalaya who work for the cause of women day-in-and out, the North East Network, Meghalaya chapter took some time off to have a chat with TNT-The Northeast Today and put a reality check on whether patronizing women on only a single day does enough justice.

Speaking to TNT- the Northeast Today, Joy Grace Syiem, Programme Manager, North East Network, Meghalaya said, “Women’s day is a day for us to reflect back on the achievements that women have made and their contributions in every aspect of life- at home, work as well as the community. Each generation battles stereotypes. We are still battling gender stereotypes. We owe a great deal to our women predecessors who advocated the rights of women at work and now, due to their efforts, we have women heading police departments, educational institutions, and being role models in every aspect of life. However, patriarchy is still very deeply entrenched in our society. For example, Meghalaya might be known as a matrilineal society but in everyday life we see how patriarchy has infused itself into our own society as well. Today women’s equality has grown so much more than only our right to work or right to speak freely.”

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Organizations like North East Network and others continue to work with women and collaborate with stake holders to provide women with equal opportunities to education, employment, pushing against suppression, violence against women and the stereotype that exists in our society. Post 2012, many stricter laws came to be framed in India but let us note that these legislative changes alone cannot reverse the scourge of violence in our country as well as society.

If we look at the NCRB report of 2016, there are as many as 39 crimes against women committed every hour in India. NEN Meghalaya’s support Centre for women has also seen an increase in the reporting of cases in terms of violence against women and child sexual abuse (CSA).

“When we started our one stop Centre Iohlynti  in 2011, we had less than a 100 cases, but now we have almost about 800 cases registered so far. Domestic violence, sexual harassment of women at work place are some of the most highly reported cases of crime against women”, added Joy.

Domestic violence is seen as a private family issue due to women refusing to take any legal action in the guise of maintaining family honour. Child sexual abuse which is mostly committed by close family relatives are also not being reported because of fear of tampering with family name. Such hieneous crimes are being swept under the carpet due to the strong patriarchal norms which are prevalent at all levels that is at the individual level, the community as well as the institutional level.

So it’s time to look back on all issues that women have gone through. While women have jumped through hurdles to make equality a national issue, there still is a long way to go in terms of achieving gender parity. So NEN Meghalaya’s call for action highlights women’s right to dignity, respect and equality across all spheres of life- be it public and personal.

“The cases of domestic violence that we receive equates in most cases to the extent of marital rape. It is very unfortunate to know that this is not being recognized in India as a crime. In such cases, we either invoke section 498A of the Indian Penal Code which is our only way out to tackling such cases”, added Joy.

Recently in the month of February, North East Network launched their Research Centre cum Library – a knowledge sharing centre that also aims at providing easier access to information. It aims to provide a common platform for youth to come together and share ideas as well as gain knowledge.  Youth have a hoard of talents within them but often, due to them being unable to access a place that would help them showcase their work; they often give up on their dreams and aspirations, bogged down by the monotony of their lives.

“We are also planning to work with a lot of women farmers, training them as well as providing a place to come and sell their products which in turn provides livelihood. Also, considering the fact that most women who are victims of domestic violence have to sometimes leave their houses. this increases their problems as they are usually unemployed but they still need to provide for their children. So NEN tries to partner with a number of organizations for training courses for these women and after which these women are empowered to earn a living as well as to face the hardships of life”, Joy informed.

NEN Meghalaya started in 1995. They initially took up work on reproductive health and after conducting various fact finding missions on the same, it was seen that there was a lot of domestic violence cases in the communities and that is how they expanded their work to the periphery of domestic violence which has now up scaled to combating child sexual abuse and other such cases. A lot of their work is with the government stake holder in creating a gender just society.

Their one stop Centre Iohlynti opened in 2011 and since then the organization has registered and tackled more than 700 cases which range from domestic violence, sexual harassment at work place, rape and the likes.

It was also revealed that right from 1995 to the present day, there has obviously been an increase in the number of cases of violence against women which also throws light on the fact that women have become more aware and have therefore begun to come forward to report such acts of injustice. NEN also revealed that since 2015, cases of child sexual abuses cases have been on the rise. In 2011, only 3 cases of CSA was reported but in 2017, there were about 200 reported cases of child sexual abuse only from Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills District.

When asked about what could be the reason behind an increase in crime against women, Joy attributed the same to the gender-power relations in society. In order to avoid such crime in future, it is important for children to be aware of the right and the wrong kind of approach by people towards them or to those around them. The role of parents, teachers and community as a whole cannot be ignored in this regard. An important institution that can really make an impact in this regard is the Church as well as other religious institutions and the Dorbar Shnongs.


The writer can be reached at shweta@thenortheasttoday.com & shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com

You can also contribute articles and opinions for our website by mailing them to us at web@thenortheasttoday.com and shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

Meghalaya: Tale of a mystery boat abandoned millions of years ago at Sohra Rim

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie

SHILLONG: Myths and legends passed on from generations form an integral part in the Khasi society, beliefs are what keep it going, however, the truth remains a mystery with no evidence to support such claims.

Astonishing as it may sound, but be rest assured, these tales and legends certainly leaves one wanting for more.

One such legend that is doing the round is the tale of an aged old boat abandoned at Law Lieng (sacred grove) in Sohra Rim. It is believed that this boat was left abandoned in this place millions of years ago when the Sohra was underwater.

Though, what is left of the boat is but only a boat-like shaped sculpted in the earth which the villagers believe to be Noah’s Ark.
As strange as it sounds, but the villagers’ beliefs repels any scientific or geographic explanation other than what had been passed on from their ancestors.

According to the Sordar of Sohra Rim Living Wahlang, he said according to legends, there were actually two boats in the beginning, one inside the sacred grove (the signs of which are still visible) while the other (now disappeared and remained but a tale of a lost boat), was drifted away, the wreckages of which, was found outside the sacred forest, which is not very far from the first boat.

“The boat inside the forest which was abandoned millions of years ago is now but a muddy pit in the shape of a huge boat, but what’s interesting about this particular pit is that, nothing grows inside this pit and even water does not accumulate inside the pit, no matter how heavy the rain is,” Wahlang said.

The pit is surrounded on its sides by age-old trees; with its roots acting like boundaries while branches with colourful leaves cover the pit like one tinted roof.

“The mystery of the lost boat outside the forest remains hidden as our ancestors believe that natural calamities coupled with geographical changes had caused the boat to be buried inside the earth,” he stated.

Furthermore, Wahlang stated that the sacred forest located at Sohra Rim got its name from this boat and till date; this forest has been called ‘Law Lieng’ or ‘Boat forest’. He said that previously, rites and rituals used to be conducted inside this forest but with time, people shifted their place of worship from this forest to a nearby valley, now fenced and cemented, an altar where faithful of the Seng Khasi from this village gathers every once a year to offer their obeisance.

The Sordar said their ancestors believed that this boat could be Noah’s Ark. However, there are other explanations which say that the boat belonged to early settlers of the then hilly areas. “It was said that most of the places like Sohra and the villages beyond it including the areas located in West Khasi Hills including Mawsynram, lies underwater (Bay of Bengal) millions of years ago, which explains the fertility of the land and the discovery of aquatic fossils,” veteran journalist and elder of Seng Khasi Sumar Sing Sawain said.
While a detail study and research to ascertain the existence of the boat is yet to be conducted, Wahlang said that it seems this place has attracted many scholars and students of universities and colleges including tourists.

A little about Sohra Rim—This village derives its name from the early settler, whose name was Sohra, an elderly woman who settled in this place for many years but later moved to Sohra. This village housed as many as 100 households, majority of whom are still linked to their ancestral faith, Ka Niam Khasi.

(The writer can be reached at mawrie.iban@gmail.com and iban@thenortheasttoday.com)

Meet Phoebe & Baljit from Shillong who are setting fast and furious goals for people

~~By Natasha Dkhar

“The thrill of Speed overcomes the fear of Failure”

The passion for speed,the love for cars and the thrill they seek in driving is what brought the duo together as a team to conquer new heights in one of the extreme sports in the world.The duo have left no stone unturned ever since as they with their mean machines are taking motorsport to a new level.The dynamic duo are none other than Phoebe Dale Nongrum & Baljit Singh Tedwal from Shillong.

In an exclusive interview with TNT-The Northeasttoday,the duo will tell us about their journey as partners and many more…

TNT: Give us a brief Bio about the two of you?

Baljit Singh Tedwal: I started out my Journey in Motorsport with Motocross in the year 1998. I have competed in 17 Motor Cross and won 13 podium. Then I started getting into Autocross later and won a few race and side by side I have competed in a few National Rallies and brought home 3 Wins for the Northeast … The passion that I had never stopped but grew more and more each day. As of now I am concentrating more on upcoming National Rallies..

Phoebe Dale Nongrum: I grew up having the Passion for speed, the love for cars and bikes. As I was growing up I would have these small drag Race, but as there was no platform for a woman in the Racing track in Shillong, I left town to pursue my studies and had been away for over a decade. But it is when I had returned back whereby some friends of mine had organized a local autocross event and asked me to give it a try.Without hesitation I said yes and ever since my journey in this extreme sport has continued.

IN PICTURES | Rock graffiti: Meghalaya’s SWKH spreads a unique kind of voter’s awareness

In Pictures | August 10, 2018

In the remote areas of South West Khasi Hills in Meghalaya where communication challenges exist, voter’s awareness is exhibited through a unique and durable way: rock graffiti.

Indigenous band “Ahowee’ from Garo Hills is taking music to a whole new level!

Interviewed by PREETTY Ch. MARAK | July, 2018

As we know music runs in Northeastern people’s blood whether young or old. One of the famous band who not only captivated people’s attention but has also brought the A’chik culture alive is none other than the “Ahowee band”. Their fusion of Garo music is worth listening, but what makes it so different is the folk touch with traditional instrument fusion, the blending of “Ajia” used by the band makes it more unique.

As the name suggest ‘Ahowee’ means victory, it has already conquered the hearts of many people with its A’chik touch. From the soothing ‘Apa de’ to the head banging ‘Airokrak’ songs, this band has made people realize that music can also revive the traditions and culture.

Here is an exclusive interviews of the band by TNT-The Northeast Today

TNT: Briefly introduce your band members to our readers

AHOWEE: The band comprises of 7 members

Gabriel G. Momin – Vocals/Flute/Dotrong/Sarenda

Gifford R. Marak – Guitars/Dotrong

Lussac M. Momin – GaroPercussions (Dama/Nagra/Ja∙srang)

Dipenbirth G. Momin – Keyboard

Sunsylevan N. Sangma – Drums

Aaron R. Marak – Bass

Chongkam G. Momin – Rapper/Flute/Chigring

TNT: Which year was the band formed?

AHOWEE: Well to be honest the band was not stable when it was first formed…. There was a lot of shuffling done to recruit band mates which eventually led us to find new members along the way and it was in the year 2015 where we found members with similar aspects towards our genre.

TNT: What is your genre of music?

AHOWEE: We play folk fusion which involves blending of our own traditional instruments along with various western instruments since folk fusion and experimental has captivated us very uniquely.

TNT: What inspired the name of the band?

AHOWEE: Well if we take Wangala for example which is the only form of Art in Garo Hills that defines our Culture and if one observes, every dance troop led by the “Matgrik” shouts out “AHOWEE” which represents Triumph over something. So the name “AHOWEE” actually signifies “Victory”which was proposed by our Rapper/Flutist’s Mr.Chongkamand we also expect to be victorious and to come out strong in our musical journey.

TNT: How did you guys come together to form the band?

AHOWEE: The band was formed by our Rapper Mr.Chongkamand we were acquainted to each other through our friends…. Fortunately we all are aspiring musicians, since then we’ve been playing together.

TNT: Who is your biggest source of inspiration?

AHOWEE: Actually we have our own legends whom we consider very inspirational and being in a band is always about finding different people who have different taste in music and eventually combining them to make a unique form of music. To mention some would be Bob Marley, Mr. Big, Marty Friedman and lots more.

TNT: How often do you jam?

AHOWEE: We jam quite frequently though we’re mostly busy during the weekdays but nevertheless we always find time when it comes to jamming.

TNT: Tell us about your EP’s or upcoming music.

AHOWEE: At present the only EP out is “Apa De Angko” (The song is a lament of a woman. She wishes that life could’ve been kind to her like any other woman’s life). We’ve got lots in store and in time will let our tracks reach the audience…. as of now the one coming hot is “SaljongTa∙sinMe∙chik” (Story of the Goddess).

TNT: What is the greater objective through your music?

AHOWEE: Since we’re doing folk fusion we want to sensitise the present Garo brethren that there is beauty in playing four strings (Dotrong), Chigring,Dama (or any Garo folk instruments) as any other form of western instruments…. Literally speaking to learn, appreciate and improvise one’s own traditional folk music and to keep the culture alive.

TNT: What is your take on the music scene of Northeast India in general and Garo Hills in particular?

AHOWEE: Northeast is really rich and full of talented musicians. We’re proud to see that a lot of bands are achieving great heights, western music in particular and thanks to Nagaland for promoting the artists of Northeast, it means alot. We hope to go someday too. As for folk music such as Garo music definitely needs miles & miles to go. So we believe it is the collective responsibility of every Garo Artist to take it to greater heights. As a band we are fully committed to stick to our roots…. but yeah with wise improvisation!!

TNT: When not jamming, what do you do?

AHOWEE: Well…. When not jamming we give time for ourselves (family & friends) but at the same time we also keep ourselves abreast with our home works because talent is best nurtured in solitude…. Jamming is all about flowing like water…

TNT: Your message to aspiring music artists.

AHOWEE: Our message is simple…. Keep originality as prior, after all identity matters rather than playing something that has already been played and Love Music not because someone plays it. Love Music because of the appreciation and the love for music..!! Practice hard!!! Yeah!!!

The interviewer can be reached at preety@thenortheasttoday.com 


You can also contribute articles and opinions for our website by mailing them to us at web@thenortheasttoday.com and shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

We welcome your comments at web@thenortheasttoday.com

 

This is how SARS struggles to stand up for the voiceless stray animals

Shillong, April 06, 2018: 

By Abigail Nongsiej 

A ray of hope shown down on the helpless and voiceless stray animals that have suffered at the hands of men, after a young animal lover — Tee Mawlong formed Stray Animal Rescue Society (SARS) in  February 2016, an organisation with the sole purpose of helping Stray Animals specifically dogs and cats.

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