Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
In a world where women have to constantly battle for equality, there are some communities where the struggle is less strenuous.. The state of Tripura boasts of a culture where women have traditionally found ways to follow their dreams. As far back as its history goes, Tripura has experienced the presence of strong queens. To name a couple, Rani Tulsibati championed educational renaissance in the state by opening the first girl’s school in 1894, and Maharani Kanchan Prabha signed the merger agreement with India in 1949.
The indigenous culture bestows a lot of rights on the woman, from being able to choose their partners to getting their rightful share in the ancestral property. Every year, girls outperform boys in the matriculation exam results. All these create an ecosystem where women have societal and financial capital to make a name for themselves.
In recent times many women from the state have challenged gender stereotypes and emerged as leaders in their individual professions. Here is a list of three such women who inspire us to reach for the stars.
1. Sourabhee Debbarma: Born in a small village of Duhuram Sadar Kami, Sourabhee became an overnight star when she contested Indian Idol 4 and won the title. She continues to have a huge fan following in Tripura and has made all Tripuris proud of her achievement. Today, Sourabhee may not be very visible on national television but she has been working hard in the Kokborok music industry of Tripura where she regularly produces albums. She also hosts a talk show on YouTube. In an interview with Adivasi Lives Matter, Sourabhee said that it was her father who encouraged her to audition for Indian Idol 4, helped her practice, and accompanied her to the venue.
2. Bipasha Hrangkhawl: She is Tripura’s first woman traffic controller. Bipasha brought great pride to her community in particular and the state as a whole when in 2017 she joined the service that had so far remained the sole domain of men. She continues to inspire women to reach for the sky. Bipasha belongs to Rangamura village in Khowai district which is about 50 km from Agartala. The Hrankhawls are one of the 19 communities living in Tripura. Bipasha’s rise in life has been a matter of great pride for the community. In an interview when she was asked whether she ever faced any discriminating for being a member of the indigenous community or for being a woman, Bipasha replied that she would never tolerate such behaviour from people.
3. Hema Debbarma: She is an entrepreneur who started her own water bottle company by the name of “Twimuk” which in the local Kokborok language refers to fresh underground water. Today Hema produces 3,000 bottled water per hour and supplies it to customers around the state. She says that clean drinking water has always been an issue in the region as underground water contains huge quantities of iron. With Twimuk, she has attempted to add more minerals to make it healthy for the consumers. Hema adds that becoming an entrepreneur is a dream come true for her but this dream was achieved suddenly rather than through years of planning.
The success stories of Sourabhee, Bipasha, and Hema remind us that women have come a long way. As we move towards a more equal society, we must remember that it took the courage of many women to make the path safer and smoother.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.