Women Empowerment Summit highlights role of women in Northeast India

Guwahati, 20 March 2023: The Regional Women Commission of Northeast India organized a two-day Women Empowerment Summit to highlight the important roles women play in the society at the Jubilee Memorial Hall, Guwahati on 18 and 19 March 2023.

Speaking at the inaugural function, Archbishop of Guwahati and the President of North East India Regional Bishops’ Council (NEIRBC), John Moolachira said, “In Indian society including the Church, women play a secondary role. They are subjugated by father, husband, in-laws in the families and their bosses at the workplace. It is time that we stress on the equal importance of women in the society, family and in the Church.”

Addressing the 450 delegates from the fifteen dioceses of Northeast India, the Archbishop said, “Women empowerment basically means treating men and women equally and giving equal freedom to women to develop herself. Such gatherings are an impetus for women to assert their position in the family and to teach the society that women have their rights and they are able to carry out their responsibilities well.”

Bishop Dennis Panipitchai, the Chairman for Regional Women Commission of Northeast India delivered the keynote address and declared the Summit open.

Highlighting the theme of the Summit ‘Empowering Women Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’, the Auxiliary Bishop of Miao diocese said, “Women Empowerment means to increase and improve women’s social, economic, political and legal strength. Empowering women will ensure that her entire family receives better healthcare, nutrition, access to education, employment, economic justice and sustainability. The Northeast Region with all its uniqueness should lead and be the harbinger of the change that our country and the world is need of.”

Held at the beautiful auditorium of North East Diocesan Social Services Society, the event included input sessions, animation and panel discussion on topics pertinent to women and daily challenges and discrimination they face in the society.

Wishing women on Women’s Day alone is not going to empower women, said Ruth Chihanphi Luiram, Anti Human Trafficking Programme coordinator of Caritas India. “Northeast India Region has almost become synonymous to human trafficking. Innocent girls and women, due to lack of education, are lured with job-offer promises and are sold as cattle and many once they leave home cannot return. Education is key to empowerment of women and it is the fuel that makes our wheels move to create an empowered society”.

The other speakers included Sister Lidwin Fernandes, National Secretary for the Women Commission of Conference of Catholic Bishops in India, who spoke on the achievement of women today and Sister Archana FCC, Women Commission Coordinator from Imphal Archdiocese, who spoke on the role of women in the Church.

Professor Lukose P.J. from Assam Don Bosco University, Guwahati, spoke on building sustainability for enhancing women empowerment, Sr. Navya FCC National Secretary for the Women Council of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, spoke on caring for the earth for a sustainable planet and Sr. Margert MSMHC, spoke on ways to achieve gender equality in Northeast India

The panel discussion helmed by three men, Father Tom Mangattuthazhe, Secretary for Ecumenism of NEIRBC, Father Tony Marshal and Mr. Jonas Lakra, Zonal Manager, Caritas India, also highlighted the need for awareness among men to effect empowerment of women.

The practical tips for physical, mental and psychological health of women by Dr. Manisha from Railway Hospital, Maligaon and the session on empowering women politically by Vilanuo Angela Yhome, a woman activist from Nagaland, were the most liked session by the delegates.

 All the participants expressed happiness over their participation at the empowerment summit. “This is the second biggest women gathering I am attending after the one we had in Shillong in 2013”, said Diolis Marwein from Nongstoin diocese.

Taw Mary Bogam from Itanagar diocese said, the sessions were truly motivating and empowering. Lucy Vanlalhruaii from Aizawl diocese said, “All the sessions were relevant to the challenges that we face in society and the summit has given us some understanding of what it means to be empowered women”.

Hemlata Choudhury from Guwahati Archdiocese said, “It was overwhelming to see women from different cultures and dialects coming together under one platform to share their concerns and seek solution” and Priscilla Vung from Imphal diocese said, “We should have such programmes more often and at different dioceses of the region to learn from each other and our tribes better”.

Tilotama Reang from Agartala diocese said, “The Summit has indeed empowered all of us. We go back now to our own places to apply what we have learned from here in our homes, villages and society today to become empowered women tomorrow”.

The women group from different dioceses of the region performed colourful cultural items and theme-oriented skits and songs at the concluding ceremony.

To be able to conduct a mega summit like this for the women by the women is itself is a big example of women empowerment, said Sr. Sunanda SND, Secretary of Northeast India Regional Women Commission. “We cannot solve all the existing problems merely by coming together in large number but this is a good start in that direction”, she said in her concluding remarks.