I always credit my mother for giving me my feminist soul. From the earliest days of my childhood in Bangladesh, mom would always take me to all her women’s rights activist events. When she began to get involved in the publishing world to launch her own magazine Ananya for Bangladeshi women, I used to sit in the corner during her meetings. Exposing me from such an early age to the world of women’s rights made me who I am today. Watching her break down barriers most Bangladeshi women would not even go near showed me that nothing was beyond my reach.

Ammu (mom in Bengali) always led by example. She always stipulated the importance of relying on no one but yourself and your education, and to be financially independent. Mom opened my eyes to the subjugation of women around the world, and taught me never to take opportunities that were given to me, like healthcare or education, things many Bangladeshi women and girls still do not have access to, for granted. She always said hard work was something no one could ever take away from you.

When you glance over the women from my mom’s side of the family, it is difficult to deny their remarkable achievements, be it within or beyond the traditional domestic sphere designated to women. From my grandmother to my eldest aunt, my Boro Khala,  women in my family epitomize what it means to be strong women. Whether it was the death of their son, or their husband taking on another wife, these women taught me when life throws you a curve ball, you pick yourself up and keep going, keep living. Most importantly, they demonstrated how to create an independent identity, and not be defined by the man in your life.

Three of them were recently profiled in the Bangladeshi magazine, Purple. I wanted to share the stories of their journeys with my readers as they recall the women that inspired them, how they cultivated their careers, and reared children in Bangladesh. They remind us how all over the world, women overcome obstacles and do extraordinary things with their lives everyday.

I hope you will celebrate them with me. I know they will inspire you the same way they continue to inspire me.

My Mother, Tasmima Hossain. Image Credit: Purple Magazine
My Aunt, Maliha Kuddus. Image Credit: Purple Magazine
My cousin, Tahniyat Ahmed Karim. Image Credit: Purple Magazine

4 comments

  1. This is very noble and uplifting, the work of your relatives. I hope you don’t mind if I ask a cultural/sociological question regarding the saris your relatives are wearing in those pictures. I was under the impression that such fashion was frowned upon or considered haram in Islamic parlance due to its association with Hindus who are considered theologically Kafir and a subset of Kafirs specifically mushrikun or idolaters/pagans, and therefore donning saris is sinful. It may be that Islam is of a moderate form in Bangladesh, but personal experience informs me that is not necessarily true. Or it may just apropos in accordance with the independence of thought and action of your relatives.

  2. Thank you for your comment! The majority of women in Bangladesh, not just in my family, wear saris. That is our culture and yes, there are huge influences from India/Hinduism in our culture. We were all one country not too long ago after all! I think the Islamic extremists consider everything haram and sinful. They need to check their facts.

  3. I really do not know how to write comments but can’t control my mind & fingers to write here something. You have very good writing style & above mentioned women definitely should get respect from our society. But I am struggling to understand what your message is about. Is it about for higher educated women in Bangladesh? If it is, then we so called educated people always salute those women on Woman’s Day or Mother’s Day & invite them for TV programme etc. They usually appear on TV screen with nice shari & perfect makeup.
    We always forget to tell lower working class woman’s contributions in our economy or in our society. I am here writing for those women. When I was in my home town, I met NURI, a 25 years young girl who is one of our house servants. I asked whether she can read or write & suddenly; she replayed, “Vaiah I went school till class eight”. Her story is that her further could not afford her education costs; her mom was sick and she had to look after her sisters & brothers & cooked for her family. So, she stopped her education and two years later she got married. She has now three kids and her husband Rickshaw driver who cannot bring enough food for his family. So, here, she has made contribution by taking care her brothers & sisters and now contributing by working for her own children.
    You will find many NURI around us but we just ignore them. If you go to rural village, you will find many women working in field beside her husband. You have education & knowledge because your Mom is educated. Your mom is educated because her parents were educated. Our society do not need to celebrate regarding woman empowerment for middle class educated women but we have to find way out how we can develop our lower income class women. I will appreciate if you could write something about woman empowerment for those poor women in near future.
    Best Wishes,
    Masud

  4. My name is Henni Racik, I am the founder and creator of a world woman ‘s project called ” velvet evolution universe tour ” and I ask that all the woman who are strong leaders contact me ….it is to change our world,

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