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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.”


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

Shillong witnesses revival in the art of story telling through Manipur’s Nicky Chandam

By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | February 6, 2018

“I believe every one is a story teller. If you do not want to attend school or wish to take a day off from office, we all know how to cook up a pretty convincing story (Laughs). Once you are convinced of what you want to convey, you will be be able to convince the listener with ease. Once you are happy telling your story, you pass on the same energy to the listeners”Nicky Chandam, Founder and Managing Director Octave Foundation

February 3, 2018 was a day of story listening for Shillongites as two story tellers from Manipur and Delhi made their way to the ‘Abode of Clouds’ bringing folk stories from times immemorial but with a dash of humor and contemporary spice. Nicky Chandam and Nitin Sukhija from Wari- a story telling platform under the banner of Octave Foundation, are on a mission to revive the art of story telling. This was their maiden attempt in Northeast India at the Heritage Club, Shillong.

Speaking to TNT- The Northeast Today, Nitin Sukhija, Nicky’s team member who forms an integral part of Wari said, “Story telling always gave my purpose a new high and Nicky gave me a purpose to pursue the same. The best part about our work is that we actually sit together and add punches to our stories. The stories are readily available, but what the story conveys and how do we make them fit for listening in the present day context is what sets it apart. We add a touch of humor into our stories so people leave the venue with a smile on their face”.

Born and brought up in Manipur, Nicky Chandam has been living in Delhi for more than a decade and worked in MNCs for more than 10 years until 2014 when she chose to quit her job, perturbed by the situation in the National Capital owing to the increase in cases of racial discrimination against Northeast Indians. On January 29, 2014, Nido Tania, a 20-year-old Student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi, triggering widespread protests. Nicky could not remain silent any longer and that was the time she decided to do something about it. And that was when she launched the Octave Foundation in 2015 with an aim to bring people together to celebrate the cultural diversity.

She realized there was lack of narratives in mainstream media and entertainment, which play an instrumental role in shaping up public opinion and awareness. The school textbooks does not talk enough about North Eastern Region despite many proposals being made repeatedly. This further alienates the people of the region from the national ethos and allows mistrust to seep into their minds. Likewise, even in Northeast India there is a sense of suspicion and lack of trust for people who do not belong to the region. Cultural exposures about other regions is low and hence even when travelling or migrating to a new region, many a times people from the Northeast assume it is safer to be in their respective communities even if in a different city.

“I come from a background of art & culture. My grandfather was a theater artist and I was exposed to the stage at a very young age. Three story tellers of Manipur totally fascinated me through their performance of ‘Epom’- the kind of comedy that would talk about the issues of society in a humorous manner that brought about acceptability among people. I wanted to do something like this. I have been a part of the Delhi art & culture space for almost as long as I have been living there and this opened up new ideas. Hence I thought that story telling would be one medium through which we can try telling the Northeast folk tales to other parts of the country. I believed that as we go on narrating more and more stories from this part of the world to people, the perspective of mainland India towards Northeast people would gradually change. Moreover, the art of story telling has been dying, thanks to the digital media. But yet, I went ahead with this idea and thankfully people have accepted this initiative.

It is this love for her language, and her need to get Delhi to understand Northeastern culture that made Chandam come up with Wari, a storytelling project under the banner of Octave Foundation, in Delhi- “I launched Wari in June 2016 with its centre in New Delhi but gradually launched it in other parts of the country- Wari is a Manipuri word which means story. It attempts to rediscover the art of storytelling for adults and children. A one of its kind curated show of fascinating stories translated and adapted from different time zones and cultures performed by various artists. Wari is a curated storytelling production created by Nicky Chandam and Anuja Jaiman. The word Wari means story in Manipuri language.When I started Wari, I was all alone but now, we have 6-7 core members who do story telling. We have also collaborated with more than 20-30 artists. Also, for the 1st time ever, a Northeast Indian organization, Octave Foundation will be hosting a Qawwali in Gurgaon. This has never been done before under a Northeast Indian banner”.

They perform next at Gurgaon where they will be presenting a musical evening of Qawwali:

It is important to mention here that Northeast India is not just about rock bands, fashion shows, cultural fests. Such events have been organized in the past but nothing much has changed over the years if we really look deep into the situation.

“We must understand that we ourselves stereotype ourselves”, Nicky says while adding, “We cannot only be represented by pork or beef, rock music and the likes. Northeast India is much beyond what we think it is. So I am trying to bring out the unexplored domain of the region through the stories. By researching stories and narrating them to people, I myself get to know a lot about the region. It is more a journey of self realization”.

Chandam attributes her love for story telling to her late grandmother who passed away in 2014- “She was that person who gave me enough and more stories. She read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata for me and she was the person who passed on the tradition of oral story telling to me. Those stories grew inside me. The agony of untold stories had to find a way to come out in one way or another  and the story of Taptaa that we presented in Shillong is just one among the many Manipuri Folk stories that find its way out for people to listen, to understand and to know more about our culture”, she said.

“I also grew up reading a lot of story books like Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. We have a team of 6-7 people and we discuss stories and make them more appealing for listeners by incorporating modern day events and happenings. These stories were mainly told to children to make them fall asleep or to farmers who had to remain awake to guard their fields all night and to make these stories fit for modern day adult listeners is definitely very challenging. Since I have been exposed to theater, I use theatrical elements.”, she said when asked about her interest in the kind of stories she presents.

It may be mentioned that Nicky faces the problem of stuttering but a noteworthy phenomenon about her story telling ability is that whenever she is on stage, the narration is smooth and pretty appealing. She is an inspiration for many who believe in what they wish to achieve while sidelining their obstacles. Chandam’s  message to upcoming youth from the region is – Start listening and Start opening up!

You can get more details about Octave Foundation by clicking on this link: Octave Foundation

Follow their work on Facebook here: Octave Foundation

The writer can be contacted at shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com and shweta@thenortheasttoday.com

BLOG | Meghalaya: Are people becoming lazy due to traffic in Shillong?

By Priya Paul | April 24, 2018

Shillong’s traffic snarl can leave cars crawling- making it almost faster to walk than drive

Meghalaya being one of the tiny hill state in India has witnessed a surge in the traffic flow over the years. Nothing comforting has come from the Government in solving this menace.

The existing traffic scenario has helped one and all to be lazy, to avoid meetings, to be late for college, etc with the universally accepted reason of “a bad traffic”, which as a matter of fact, is true. The road in Polo Bazar in Shillong is jammed every morning and evening that it has become an inevitable feature of the place.

Have we ever spared some time to think about the monstrous traffic and how easy lives would be if one day the government intervenes and takes an exceptional stand to curb the traffic menace? But that only sounds like a far-fetched dream!

About the contributor: Priya Paul is a student of of St. Anthony’s College, Shillong, Mass Media Dept. and can be reached at priyapaul2712@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

We welcome your comments at web@thenortheasttoday.com

This unique solution from Shillong is solving attendance problem across Northeast India!

By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | April 2, 2018

In this busy and fast paced world, where each and every person is busy in some form of a rat race, it becomes difficult for parents to keep a check on their children while coping with their own tasks. However the advancement in technology accompanied with a dash of innovation promises to make things easier for them. Here is how!

With increasing difficulty faced by parents in keeping a tab of their children’s attendance in school, a Shillongite, Polok Das came up with the idea of Auto Attendance System. This was introduced in the School Attendance System in Northeast India’s Shillong and since 2012 many Schools in Meghalaya have been using this Solution.

Stemming its roots from Meghalaya, they now offer their services to many schools located in Guwahati,  Tura, Tripura, Shillong and Tinsukia in entire north east India.  They are now looking forward to business presence in Dimapur, Imphal and Itanagar as well.

Speaking to TNT- The Northeast Today, the initiator of this solution in Northeast India said that upon realizing the huge technological gap between Northeast and mainland India, he decided to go ahead and bridge it. Also, given the fact that bio-metric devices have become outdated, this technology was introduced.

This system is more advanced as compared to biometric device and there is no need for card swapping ( like ATM) or Thumb Impression.

The Hardware Equipments’ ( 1 machines for every 250 Nos Students), school attendance software with Basic School ERP, SMSes , necessary cabling are provided free of cost to the Schools. Charges only applied for service on yearly basis whereas all hardware and identity cards are free of cost.

“With this system, teachers do not need to take any manual roll call in the class room or do any calculations to find out the percentage of absentees every month. The system automatically generates these with the help of attendance software.

In this system RFID readers will be installed in the schools premises and after the morning assembly students will show their ID cards to the device and attendance will be taken within 5 minutes of time irrespective of any number of student’s strength in the school.  The students who are absent their parents will receive an SMS in their registered mobile number which the system will send by itself. Students who try to bunk classes or inform parents having extra classes school can send bulk SMS to their parents if there is no such extra classes are conducted by the school at any point of time.

These RFID cards can be used as student’s and staffs school Identity Card too apart from taking their attendance in the school. They also provide ID card printing service free of cost. Moreover, the School does not need any external vendor for student’s ordinary Identity Card printing where the school generally spends Rs 80 to Rs 150 per student per year.

“We will provide the identity card for free along with printed lanyards and card holders, SMSes attendance software with basic School ERP software ( off-line)”, he said. Also a certain % age of profit is given to financially weak students as a scholarship every year.

To make things more convenient for the users, a guarantee of service facility within 24-hrs is also provided by them in any state of India. Hence, through this venture of theirs, they are also providing employment employment opportunities to many in cities.

The software performs the following functions:


The student Master containing the complete data of the students with Roll no, Name, address, photo, Std, Div, Parents Details etc. The fields can be added or removed as per our requirement as per General Register

-Subject Master

-Standard and Div. master

-Teacher and Class Teacher Master

-Time Table Master

– Any other masters can be added as per special requirement.

The online attendance transactions would be handled by the software without any propagation delay
-Time In

-Time Out

-Special Time In (Late coming)

-Data maintenance for the whole academic year.

The reports can be filtered by following fields:


*Roll No



*Between dates

The Reports will be as follows:

-Presenters Reports

-Absenteeism Reports

-Late coming Reports

-Percentage Attendance Reports

-Class wise Reports

-Division Wise Reports

-Student wise reports

-From date – To Date Reports

-Weekly Reports

-Monthly Reports

-Half Yearly Reports

-Yearly Reports.

-Absenteeism SMS : In case the student remains absent for the day, the system is capable of sending alert SMS automatically to the parent the (“Your Child Name “Krutika” Std=IX Div= A is Absent for the day”,Balvikas Mandir,  ) so as to keep informed regarding the day’s absenteeism of the child.

-Special SMS:  If in case any special message to be passed on to a specific parent, a special SMS can be sent to the specific parent e.g. “Your Child Name Krutika is not keeping well plz collect her immediately” Balvikas Mandir,

-Marks SMS

*The marks also can be SMS’ed to the parent while mark sheets are printed simultaneously. e.g.( Krutika Sem1 Marks Marathi=55,English=45,Hindi=67, EVS=56,Wexp=56)

-Marksheet Printing : The mark sheet also can be printed from the systems for all classes. Here teachers only have to enter the marks and all totaling, Grading all done by system. And gives marksheet in printable format


Any other reports can be added as per requirement of the customer. As having In-House Development system, the software can be made as per requirement.

With a great success rate so far, this technology is surely going a long way in solving the nitty-gritty issues of managing the students which will in turn help in diverting the focus on better education in many schools not only in Northeast India, but also in the entire country.

You can visit their Youtube link for the demo here-

They can be reached at  + 91 7303148539


Schools using the system since 2013 :


Shillong Public School
Hill Crest Hr Sec School
Dainty buds.
Hill view secondary school.
Govt girls hr sec school.
P.N choudhury hr sec school
St Jeromes Hr sec school
ST claret Hr Sec School
JAIL road Boys’ Hr sec School
K.C secondary School .
Among others


OASIS English Secondary School
GODWINS English School


SIKSHA bhavan Monteswari School

In TURA, schools have started incorporating this system from this year onwards

TURA Public School
Mount Sinai Secondary School

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

Meghalaya Police to face virtual challenge head-on; to use social media as weapon against rumour mongering

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie | Shillong, June 14, 2018:

With social media continuing to become a cause of concern for the enforcing agencies, considering the number of cases being blown out of proportion across the state, due to irresponsible usage of the internet, the Meghalaya Police is coming up with a strategy to tackle this problem in the virtual world.

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


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