GUWAHATISalhoutuonuo Kruse made history on March 7 by becoming Nagaland’s first woman minister.
The berth in the Nagaland cabinet led by Neiphiu Rio came five days after she and Hekani Jakhalu were elected as the first women MLAs of the State. Both represent the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).
Nagaland has had two women MPs – Rano M. Shaiza of the United Democratic Party and S. Phangnon Konyak of the BJP – since it attained Statehood in 1963. But space in the 60-member Assembly was a bridge too far for them until the NDPP nominated Ms. Jakhalu and Ms. Kruse for the February 27 elections.
There were only two other women among the 183 candidates who contested the State polls. One each was fielded by the BJP and Congress.
Ms. Kruse, a 55-year-old, was thrilled after being sworn in as one of the 12 ministers, the maximum Nagaland can have.
“The responsibility given to me is huge, especially as the first of a kind. I shall do my best to encourage women to be brave, sincere, and hardworking so that we can work together and gain whatever we have not gained yet,” she told journalists in the State capital Kohima.
‘Victory of the women of Nagaland’
A social worker who worked for more than two decades with several NGOs, Ms. Kruse won the Western Angami Assembly seat in the Kohima district by only 7 votes.
She said she had faced several challenges after deciding to contest the elections and succeed where her husband could not. He failed to win an election and died in 2021.
“The main challenge was contesting the polls as a woman in the Naga society that has a patriarchal mindset, although accommodative to a considerable extent now,” she said.
Ms. Jakhalu, the U.S.-educated lawyer and social entrepreneur who founded the non-profit organisation YouthNet in 2006, said she and Ms. Kruse managed to break the glass ceiling. “Ours is a victory of the women of Nagaland,” she said.