Paula Banerjee • Gender Focal Point • India
"Even though women remain largely excluded from formal peace negotiations, there have been cases of the involvement of women's peace organizations taking part in peace processes, particularly in Nagaland
, India. Most notable of the Naga women's peace groups are the Naga Mothers Association
(NMA) and they have been very active in the politics for peace in Northeast India. The NMA came into existence on February 14, 1984, with a preamble that stated, "Naga mothers of Nagaland shall express the need of rising awareness for citizens towards more responsible living and human development through the voluntary organisation of the Naga Mother's Association." The NMA mediated between the Government of Nagaland and the Naga Student's Federation over age limit for jobs and came to an equitable settlement. An achievement of NMA is the formation of the Peace Team in October 1994 to confront the deteriorating political situation. Their theme was Shed No More Blood. The NMA spoke against killings not only by the army but also by the militants. In a pamphlet released on 25th May 1995, the representatives of NMA wrote that: "the way in which our society is being run whether by the over ground government or the underground government, have become simply intolerable."
While continuing to do social work, women remain involved in peacemaking in Nagaland. They are particularly effective in inter-ethnic conflict. In 2001 they travelled by feet to Myanmar to make peace between the two factions of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). In 2010 they tried to retain peace between the Nagas and the Assamese and went to Assam to convince the people there that maintaining peace between the two communities was advantageous for both. While working for peace they work for empowerment of women by trying to implement the presence of 33 per cent women in their local self government. For that they have even litigated against the Hohos who were their traditional partners against the hegemonic state. In the context of India you cannot separate the political from the social as one impacts on the other. Women's role in de-addiction gave Naga women the legitimacy to demand leadership role in peacemaking. This might be explained by the fact that the NMA has assumed enormous influence in Naga politics which is borne out by the fact that they are the only women's group in South Asia who has participated in a cease-fire negotiation between the Government of India (GOI) and the NSCN.
As the Chief Minister of Manipur was quoted in a leading newspaper, "saying Manipur is today veritably on fire and the major onus of dousing this fire rests on the shoulders of our womenfolk who have always taken a major role in the shaping the history of the land. He said there are no sons who will not listen to their mothers, no brother who cannot be influenced by their sister." Thus expectation of women's abilities to resolve conflict is high in Manipur as well. In this way Manipur is not exceptional and in much of Northeast India today peacemaking, particularly inter-community peacemaking, is seen as women's role. However, in formal peacemaking bodies, in particular state women, do not find much space. Gender issues are not addressed by and large in the peace negotiations undertaken by the state. The Shillong Accord between the Naga rebels and the GOI had no agenda on gender justice and it ultimately failed. But the Mizo Peace Accord is still active and in place although very little is said about women in that Accord. In Nagaland, peace negotiation is still going on and there is a ceasefire in existence. UNSCR 1325 is well known to all peace activists but that has not made much difference to their position by and large. Although the state is unwilling or unable to integrate gender justice within the formal peace processes, women activists in much of Northeast call for peace as they realise that peace gives them the possibility to assume leadership roles in society and make their world more just."