Saturday, July 20, 2024

Single motherhood dilemma in Meghalaya


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When the Chairperson, National Commission for Women (NCW), Rekha Sharma who was recently in Shillong was asked by media persons as to her views on the high number of single mothers in Meghalaya, she expressed her ignorance on the matter. Later she was told that the Meghalaya State Commission for Women (MSCW) had in 2022 released the report on single mothers and their challenges. This Report evidently did not reach the NCW. The State Commission released the report captioned, ‘Exploratory Study on the Socio-Economic Status and Problems of Single Mothers in Meghalaya,’ which highlighted significant challenges faced by 3,078 single mothers across seven districts in Meghalaya. The Report says that 46.2% of these women were illiterate and 28.4% had only primary education. Many of these women, whether deserted, abandoned, or widowed, bear the responsibility of supporting their families. The burden of women in a matrilineal society is that children remain with their mothers when the couple are divorced or the woman is abandoned by her partner/husband.
This study is important considering the large number of single mothers in Meghalaya. The study however highlighted the significant challenges faced by single mothers in 3078 households. The study was conducted in 7 districts (according to Census 2011) and 18 Blocks in a total of 122 villages in the rural area and localities/wards in urban areas. The study covered 2322 households, 87 villages and 35 localities/wards in urban areas of Meghalaya. Fieldwork for this study was conducted in October 2016 to June 2017. Additionally, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)- 5 had stated that 42% of households in Meghalaya are led by single mothers. Research questions for the study included – How many single mothers are there in the state? 2. What is the socio-economic status of single mothers? 3. What is the material well-being of single mothers? 4. What is the physical and mental health of single mothers?
The problem with the State Commission Report is that it is not available online and hence the NCW Chairperson can be forgiven for not having an inkling about matrilineal Meghalaya’s most pressing problem which is a contradiction in terms. The study was aimed at understanding how women access resources from the state, their familial ties, social networks and support systems and was aimed at helping the state to make interventions to alleviate the sufferings of single mothers. The Report however was not even discussed in the State Assembly and no resolution was moved on how it could be used to make special interventions to assist single mothers. It is fair therefore that a second more robust study on single mothers is conducted within a definite timeline.

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