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Begum Rokeya: the Pioneer Women Activist in Bangladesh

“Women” and “History”, though this two words has totally different type of meaning, when we connect this two words by saying “ Woman in history” so many female features come across our mind. The reason behind this that is to build the history of human civilization, the contribution of women has known no bounds. The sufferings, tolerance, challenges and obstacles which they faced throughout their life, makes them golden girl of all era. As a Bangladeshi girl, the woman whose name I heard from my childhood is Begum Rokeya also known as Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (1880 – December 9, 1932), the first activist who fights to establish girls’ education in undivided Bengal in the early 20th century. Begum Rokeya dedicated her life to the service of mankind. She was a prolific writer, feminist and a social worker who fight for gender equality and other social issues. She is the first women who talk about the gender equality in the undivided Bengal. She said “We constitute one half of the society and if are left behind, how can the society progress? If a person’s one leg is tired, how far can he go? The interests of men and women are the same. The goal of life is the same for both”. Therefore, due to her work, passion and philosophy of life she is one of the idol personalities in my life. The main reason that I would most want to have a discussion with her is to know the source of her courage to break the rules of the society and establish it successfully. At the time of 20th Century it was really challenging to take steps to change the society trough braking rules by a women especially in this part of the world, where women are still suffering for their basic right. The initiative and courage that she has shown was encouraging for me as I want to be an activist who will work for the gender equality, establish right of women and stop violence against women. If I would get a chance to meet with her, I would like to discuss with her about the present situation of Bangladeshi women and what can be the right movement and I which way it will be effective to take as I found she is the best person who can take some right decision and peruse people with her logical and magical writing. Begum Rokeya started the mission of gender equality and establishes the right of women, but now, we, the new generation have to finish it properly. Although it seems like women have more power and gender equality in both east and west but if we think deeply we will find that it did not reduce then past, it is still existing but in complicated way. Also, I would like to ask some questions to her about her book name “Sultana’s Dream” which is an ironic novel but have a deep philosophy in it. Finally, for her contribution, work and creative writing to make awareness in the society I want to discuss with her. One of my favorite quotes of her is, “We are not only Hindus or Muslims or Parsis or Christians or that we are Bengalees, Tamilians, Marwaris or Panjabis, but that we are Indians too. We are Indians first then Muslimes or Shikhs or whatever else”, the inner meaning of this quote is our first identity is we are human being and then comes the other manmade divisions. Finally, I hope her dedication to work for women development and philosophy will inspire our present leaders and women activists to bring gender equality in Bangladesh.


phasy's picture


Dear Umme,

Yes, still now the gender equality is not better than in the past much and most of all the women have to bare the double burden of work, it means they have to work in office or work place and as well as in the household. Women in developed or developing nations are struggling about this. What are the solutions women in Bangladesh??? Do you know any women organization?

Umme Mahbuba's picture


Dear Pasy,
Thanks for your comment and I agree with you. Although gender discrimination and women education significantly increasing in Bangladesh, the situation, sufferings and social behaviors toward women are still same. Still most of the women think that getting a degree and a job is synonymous to empowerment, so most of them do not know about the discrimination and aware about gender inequality in workplace. Moreover, as their husband and male persons at home do not cooperate with them, they mass up and face difficulty with managing both side of life, and there are enormous case studies of women in Bangladesh leaves their jobs because their husband does not want to and she is "properly" managing her household. According to me the solution is not only creating awareness about gender equality among women but also among men, and social stereotypes and norms which are against gender equality should be changed. And yes, I do know some women organizations, actually there are many which are working women right, women empowerment, women education and gender equality. I am going to post a journal with bibliography including short note of some women organization very soon in Bangladesh Cafe. Please let me know if you have more questions =)
All the best

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