Women’s group working in northeast India gets global funding
SHALINI KATHURIA NARANG
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
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
A North East Network meeting in Meghalaya
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 strength-
ened biodiversity and conservation meas-
ures by helping gauge the value of local
plants and herbs and reviving grains like
millets in farms.”
In Assam too, Behal said, “the coopera-
tion 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 conven-
tions, 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 organiza-
tion in the northeast to create a map of sup-
port services available to women in dis-
tress. The group also promotes State
accountability by encouraging citizens to
use the Right to Information Act, especial-
ly regarding land issues, ration allowances
and appropriate wage labor.
With a little help from the
dent must either be a US citizen or Green Card holder, and
s/he must be enrolling in a four-year undergraduate program
at a credentialed US college or university. Applicants must
demonstrate financial need based on family-adjusted gross
income, and a cumulative un-weighted GPA above 3.6. If the
scholar maintains a cumulative GPA above 3.3, Upakar will
renew the scholarship for all four years. The program has provided financial assistance to 108 Indian-American scholars —
from 30 American states — over the past 12 years to attend
Nithya Nagarajan, treasurer, Upakar, said, “The Upakar
Foundation is the first organization of its kind in the Indian-
American community. It serves as a one-stop shop for talent-
ed young scholars to obtain financial aid, internship opportu-
nities, and mentoring. Upakar does not consider family back-
ground, residency period, or university rank, so our scholars
truly are the best and brightest.”
Jyotsna Gupta Jalil, the organization’s vice president, said,
“Over the years, we have been very proud of our high-achiev-
ing scholars. Many have been in the US for less than 10 years,
and some are the first members of their family to go to college.”
In an earlier interview, Jalil had lamented: “Most of our
community is focused on helping back in India. But there is
also a significant need here, and education is the best invest-
ment in our community’s future.”
The scholarship money, said the Upakar office bearers, is
given independent of where the applicant goes to college.
While many scholarship recipients do pursue careers in fields
traditionally popular among Indian Americans — law, medi-
cine, engineering, business, etc — Upakar also encourages
applications from students with non-traditional majors.
Scholarship applications for 2011 will be available in
January. The submission deadline is May 1, 2011.
San Francisco consul general
discusses visa rules with community
issues like visas, passports, and OCI [Overseas Citizen
of India], I will be happy to do,” Thomas said.
The consulate, she pointed out, is an implementing
agency. “We do not make the rules or create the rules,”
she said, adding that the sharply negative feedback
she has been receiving has been conveyed to the government of India. She said the government is still
working on some of the questions.
“We can expect some more changes, and this time
for the better,” she said.
“The government of India has made it mandatory
for all foreigners of Indian origin to complete the
renunciation of Indian citizenship formalities. And,
accordingly, we are advising everyone in this category
to complete this process,” she said.
People who have lost their Indian passports will be
given temporary 6-month visas if they want to visit
India in an emergency. But they have to give some
evidence of their old Indian citizenship. Also, the fee
has been reduced for those who obtained citizenship
before June 1, 2010. Thomas said citizens naturalized
before 2005 did not have to include their naturalization certificate when they surrendered their passports.
Kuldeep Hauhar, an attendee, did not think the
matter was as simple.
“I was born in Rawalpindi and now it’s a part of
Pakistan. I am a naturalized citizen of the United
States. But because I am born in India, I am an
Indian. But after Partition I moved to Pakistan. Do I
have to surrender my passport,” he asked.
Another senior citizen, Daulet Nag, said the meeting was informative but there was still much confusion to deal with. He was born in Sikanderpur, now in
Pakistan, and moved to Pakistan after Partition.
Luckey Kaur, who moved to the US 35 years ago,
said, “We are paying the penalty because many
Indians are misusing their passports.” She said she
was happy that the consul had come to meet the community, but expressed sharp displeasure at the way
staff treats visitors at the San Francisco consulate.
“Their services suck,” Kaur declared. “You go to the
lobby and they [behave with] you rudely.”
Other attendees had similar complaints. Another
woman said that while the meeting has reduced some
tension between the community and the authorities,
many things were yet unclear. Among other things,
she said, the consulate ought to explain why it rejects
Mukesh Kacker spoke of mistakes on the consulate
Web site and the lack of clarity of information there.
He specifically cited the improper placement of the
requirements for applying for an OCI card. Thomas
said she would look into the matter and try to fix
problems on the Web site.
Many complained that the consulate staff never
pick up the phone or reply to e-mails. Thomas stoutly denied that. She also said the consulate has
received about 15,000 surrendered passports
between May and early June and said this was keeping consulate staff members busy.
Thomas told India Abroad that she was happy to
reach out to the community. She said that some clarifications were certainly required. “We were confused
too,” she said, adding that she has been working day
and night since the new rule has been implemented.
Many people who stood in the line of people who
wanted to ask questions did not get a chance even
after an hour.
“My phone keeps ringing,” said Thomas, adding
that she plans to hold another meeting within three
months or sooner.