Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain



Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain A pioneer of women’s liberation movement in undivided India. She was born in 1880 in a village called Pairaband in the district Rangpur. Widely regarded as Bengal's earliest and boldest feminist writer, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was a pioneering and creative educationist and social activist, and the school she founded in Kolkata, the Sakhawat Memorial School for Girls, still thrives.She was also a social activist, who organized middle-class women in undertaking slum development and training poor women in incomegenerating activities.

Her style of writing was in a way to raise popular consciousness, she used humour, irony and satire to focus attention on the injustices faced by Bengali Muslim women. She criticized oppressive social customs forced upon women in the name of religion, asserting that the glory of God could be best displayed by women fulfilling their potential as human beings.
She wrote several novels and essays, her best known publications are Sultana’s Dream (1905), Padmarag (1924), Motichur (1903) and Abarodhbasini (1931). Sultana's Dream, written in English (to test her proficiency in English), is a delightful ironical and satirical work set in Ladyland, where the men are in curtain „purdah“ and the women go out and work.

An extraordinary novella with generous dashes of melodrama and romance, disasters and coincidences, Padmarag, written in Bengali (1924) and translated here for the first time, describes a female-founded and female-administered community set in contemporary Bengal, where women from diverse regions and ethnicities, with unhappy histories of patriarchal oppression, better their lot by concrete social action. Both Sultana's Dream and Padmarag discuss in playful, fascinating, and intelligent ways the question of women's education.

(A Western writer commented Rokey's feminist sentiments as follows) "Feminism is indigenous in roots as opposed to foreign influence. Although male support of indigenous feminist sentiments seems to be more common among the formally-educated (locally and abroad). Rokeya herself says that if she had not had her brother and husband's support, she would not have been able to write and contribute to the advancement of Muslim women in her country.

In the personal life of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, writing and activism were intertwined. The connection between these has however increasingly become difficult in the world of academia."

Rokeya a pioneer of women’s liberation movement in undivided India. She did not reject veiling altogether as she herself wore a veil. She advocated modesty and said that veiling should not be in a manner that would hinder education for women. Her primary concern was formal education for women. For Rokeya, women (veiled or unveiled) need to be self-sufficient. And in order to get support from men in her country, she argued that women become better "home-managers" when educated. However, her ultimate goal was that women, and particularly Muslim women in her country, would reach their fullest potentials as human beings, would be able to pursue their own interests rather than relying on the men in their lives for their well-being.