Growing up as an Adivasi woman in a mixed-caste Hindu community in Jharkhand, I was always aware of the triple jeopardy I faced. First, as a woman in general, second as an Adivasi in a caste structure and third as an Adivasi woman. I was aware, since college, for instance, of the fact that Adivasi women were victimised as dayans (witches) in rural areas of Jharkhand. I was aware that despite being educated in the same schools, Adivasi women were discriminated in the name of their traditions. But it was only after I started working in the social development sector that I realised how structural and systematic the discrimination against Adivasi women really is.
Tribal communities believe that Adivasi women are less discriminated against than their non-Adivasi counterparts. But within an Adivasi household like mine, in which I went through a mixed socialisation process, women remained secondary citizens. Whether in education or opportunities, families give importance to men. Even at my home, that was the case. I learned early on that to be heard, I have to fight for my space. These personal experiences of standing up to my own family led me to pursue Women’s Studies and work with the social development sector for the upliftment of women. By the time I was working in my first formal job, I had already made something of a space with dignity for myself in the Adivasi social work sector. I started receiving many invitations and requests to speak at seminars, events and lectures about Adivasi gender issues. The superiors in my organisation, which purportedly worked for Adivasi rights and advocacy, did not take that well. After all, how can an Adivasi woman surpass their and the organisation’s credibility and stature? Needless to say, the organisation was run by non-Adivasi folk and, as a vocal representative of Adivasi people and particularly as an Adivasi woman, I was a threat to them.