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Ema Keithel: An Ethnographic study of women’s market in Manipur, Northeast India
Ema Keithel is one of the most historically important and unique market in the whole South Asia for being entirely operated and managed by womenfolk. It stands as a symbol of women empowerment in Manipur society. In the history of world, women’s of Manipur holds a high position, only in terms of domestic and social affair but also in political sphere, the women of Manipur stood firm in forefront of every movement and womenfolk gathered around the Khwairamband Keithel or Ema Keithel. In due course of time, large force labour migration creates a threat to the indigenous inhabitant’s economic network and the cultural integrity of the society. As a result, cultural assimilation among different ethnic groups creates a push and pulls phenomena. The market is one of the second largest markets in Asia. This unique feature of the market attracts lots of tourists and migrants in the city. But, the uniqueness of the market is still intact and firm among the women who are the sole sellers. The fear of losing their livelihood and threat from outsider and multinational company has started among the women (CORE, 2005). The present research attempts to find the real meaning of empowerment among these women. How these women in the market plays a vital role in the market affairs and the state as a whole in bringing solidarity among diverse ethnic groups. The present study used interview and focused group discussion among different categories of women present in the market for livelihood.