The Naga ‘Mekhela’ has been a very prominent aspect of tribal women’s indigenous identity. This is something which is used on formal occasions coming out with more elaborate (and expensive) designs each year. I believe every Naga woman own one. There is also this recent revival of the mekhela by the popular instagram account Mekhelamama.
Recently, I heard a woman at a wedding, lamenting how she cannot wear a particular mekhela set because it is worn ‘only’ by educated woman. If I am not mistaken, almost every tribe today have a mekhela meant only for educated woman.
I believe that at least in our traditional attires, there shouldn’t be classifications/divisions based on our educational qualifications. There are a lot of discriminations faced by women in different spheres, our clothing should be the last thing to add to this tiresome list.
It sounds harsh but in a time where tribal societies across the world are using culture and traditions to unite people, we are actually creating barriers among ourselves by differentiating one from the other based only on superficial restrictions.
It is really unfair to pick out the ones just because they are not “educated” and assign a particular clothing for them just because they didn’t get the opportunity to go to schools or colleges. It is creating further rift and also creating the concept of “others” among ourselves. This is a time for educated tribal women to pave the way for those who did not get the same opportunities as they did- inclusiveness is the key here.
Just because educated women are empowered does not mean that we can proclaim all women are empowered. We cannot leave behind those whose voices cannot be heard and claim empowerment for ourselves just because we can and they cannot.