In Wokha district, Nagaland, women are barred form becoming pastors or reverends.
Women in Nagaland face widespread discrimination in almost every area of their lives. They are expected to perform all household chores, not to work outside, and hardly have any say in household decisions. “Women are inferior to men in every sphere of life,” explains Meribeni, our CC in Kohima who made this video.
Gender inequality and discrimination also pervades in the religious institution of the church. In the Baptist denomination of Christianity, women are commonly allowed to become pastors, but this is not the case in Kohima district where women – even those more capable or more qualified than men – are excluded from being appointed as pastor or reverend. In other parts of Nagaland, women have become pastors. According to Meribeni, this situation in Wokha district is due to the strongly patriarchal culture of the local Lotha tribe, and to the general backwardness of the district, in terms of infrastructure and development. “Men do not want women to become pastors because of an inferiority complex. They prefer to keep as much power as possible over women,” said Meribeni.
However, signs of change have slowly appeared. The younger generation is more open to the idea of women holding high religious positions. Some young pastors, like the one in the video, have openly expressed being in favor of female pastors. But they still face a strong opposition from senior pastors, who hold power in the community. “Change can happen. Maybe in 20, 30 years, there would be women pastors,” says Meribeni.
Meribeni is now planning to screen her video to the women in her community, to raise awareness among them about the discrimination they are subjected to. By helping them seeing their situation in a new light, she is certain to make a first crucial step in bringing about changes in gender relations in her community.