The Global Fund for Women, an international organization committed to defending women's rights globally, has awarded a first grant of $12,000 to the North East Network, which works in India's seven northeastern states.
The GFW funding will help the organization to expand a home-based weaving livelihood project running for several years with 90 tribal Chizami women in Nagaland. Through training on skills enhancement, costing, production planning, quality control, and group management, NEN aims to increase the earnings for women, professionalize weavers in a democratic system of working together, and increase the weavers' awareness of their social and economic rights.
Two women began the North East Network in 1995 after participating in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Besides New Delhi, the NEN has offices in India's conflict-ridden states of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
"We aim to bring gendered understanding of human rights violations in the region in the context of conflict, livelihood, and/or health," said Monisha Behal, chairperson, NEN. "One of our activities is to use the (United Nations') Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women to influence the State machinery to fulfill its obligations to women. In Meghalaya, we work with the state enforcement authorities on issues of gender and perspectives change especially on violence against women. Its success has influenced NEN Assam, started this year, to do the same."
In Nagaland, she continued, "NEN has addressed ecological conservation through wildlife education. Through the GFW, it is marketing finished traditional Naga weaves in India. NEN has also strengthened biodiversity and conservation measures by helping gauge the value of local plants and herbs and reviving grains like millets in farms."
In Assam too, Behal said, "the cooperation between women's and youth groups, village councils and state agencies is visible. We have also trained several organizations on the Right to Information Act."
By participating in international conventions, including UN meetings regarding Security Resolution 1325, NEN works to highlight the human rights issues facing the women living in the conflict zones of northeast India. It was the first organization in the northeast to create a map of support services available to women in distress.
The group also promotes State accountability by encouraging citizens to use the Right to Information Act, especially regarding land issues, ration allowances and appropriate wage labour.
The group has built partnerships between women's groups and state agencies, including police and medical personnel. It also focuses on building a multi-sector, gender-sensitive approach to violence against women, especially Meghalaya. A community in Meghalaya has donated land for NEN to build a resource centre.