Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the passing away of Helam Haokip from Manipur on 17 September, 2020. She succumbed to a brief illness and hospitalization on September 17 leaving everybody in deep shock and pain. We express our deepest condolences to her mother, two sisters and brother in Manipur for who she was a pillar of support. And we grieve along with her many friends across different places who are yet to come to terms with the news of her untimely death.
After finishing MSc, Helam has been actively involved in social and community work since 1998. Born in Urangpat village in Manipur, Helam is the first generation of women who stood up to question patriarchal norms among the tribal community in Manipur. Helam also became the first woman executive member from Manipur in Kuki Inpi, which is the apex body of the Kuki people hailing from states of Northeast India, Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh and Northwest Myanmar. Helam was employed as secretary of the NGO Integrated Rural Management Association. She was a core member of WinG-India, which is a national network of women leaders from marginalized communities across India.
Helam’s relentless efforts over the years in opposing the continuing presence of the armed and paramilitary forces in Northeast India, demanding an end to the AFSPA and campaigning for peace and restoration of normalcy has been a significant contribution to the struggles of the women in the Northeast. And as significant is her grounded work within the community in trying to reform traditional practices and customary laws.
Helam has been with WSS ever since its inception in 2009. She played a significant role in the organizing of the WSS National Convention in Imphal in November 2010, which was one of its first kind for WSS as a network. With her sharp understanding of struggles as well as her thorough critique of patriarchy, Helam and others opened up an understanding of women and the armed conflict in the Northeast for many from the mainland. The convention itself was organized in a difficult situation when a blockade was on
Active for over 20 years, Helam’s life is testimony to the multiple struggles women in Northeast are engaged in as they confront the forces of state, capital and patriarchy. Adieu Helam! We aspire to strengthen our bonds with women in Northeast and our common struggles.