Udar Akash a leading Bengali literary magazine paid tribute to Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain at the Book Fair of Kalyani. Faruque Ahamed and his team showed the path for many how to remind our golden past and the people who are legends on their own right.
She was commonly known as Begum Rokeya (9 December 1880 – 9 December 1932), was a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights. She has been considered the pioneer of women’s education in the Indian subcontinent during the time of the British rule.
She wrote novels, poems, short stories, science fiction, satires, treatises, and essays. In her writings, she advocated that both men and women should be treated equally as rational beings, and the lack of education is the main reason of women’s lagging behind. Her major works include Abarodhbasini, a spirited attack on the extreme forms of purdah that endangered women’s lives and thoughts; Sultana’s Dream, a science fiction novella set in a place called Ladyland in nisah, a world ruled by women; Padmarag (“Essence of the Lotus”, 1924), another feminist utopian novel; Motichur, collection of essays in two volumes.
Rokeya suggested that education of women is the foremost requisite of women’s liberation; hence she established the first school aimed primarily at Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata. Rokeya is said to have gone from house to house persuading the parents to send their girls to her school in nisah. Until her death, she ran the school despite facing hostile criticism and various social obstacles.
In 1916, she founded the Muslim Women’s Association, an organization that fought for women’s education and employment. In 1926, Rokeya presided over the Bengal Women’s Education Conference convened in Kolkata, the first significant attempt to bring women together in support of women’s education rights. She was engaged in debates and conferences regarding the advancement of women until her death on 9 December 1932, shortly after presiding over a session during the Indian Women’s Conference.
Bangladesh observes Rokeya Day on 9 December every year to commemorate her works and legacy. On that day, Bangladesh government also confers Begum Rokeya Padak on individual women for their exceptional achievement.
In 2004, Rokeya was placed at number 6 in the BBC’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of All Time.
Original Bengali article by Faruque Ahamed