Philosophy of Begum Rokeya
Still imperative in the Era of SDGs29 December 2019
Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) was a remarkable and luminous icon in Bangla literature for her leading role in women's education, progressive thinking and torchbearer of women's emancipation. She tried to figure out women's sufferings in her essays, novels, and in writings through artistic and practical way. But in her work named "Aborodbashini", she analyzed women's sorrows and struggles which was regarded as a masterpiece of her work according to litterateurs. Principally, she endeavored to shake up the women's wits and consciences by her writings and publications to be educated. She was the only one female icon who raised her voice for women's emancipation during British rule in sub-continent. She was an outspoken for women's rights and equality in her era and always against the gender bias created by the patriarchal society.
Women's development and sustainable development are correlated with each other. The Brundtland report highlights, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. There are two goals of sustainable development those are directly related to men and women's enrichment and progress. The goal number five indicates gender equality for all. On the other hand, goal ten highlights about reduced inequality from the society. These above mentioned two goals are very much related to gender equality and prosperity. A huge number of writers, researchers, litterateurs are publishing their thoughts and views on gender equality. Nowadays, donor agencies and development stockholders are outspoken on gender equality and sustainable development for all. All of them highlights on different paths and directions to ensure women's rights and gender equality for all. Therefore, they focus on human dignity and prosperity for all. Economic security is one of the main driving forces and social strengths for women empowerment in this age. This important and farsighted plan had been understood by Begum Rokeya as she established "Anjumane Khaoyatin-e-Islam" (Muslim Women Association) in 1916. Essentially, she formed this association in order to ensure economic freedom, legal and political rights of women. The women's involvements in job market have been augmented over the last decades in Bangladesh according to the World Bank report. It states that the economic participation of women in economic sector increases 26% in 2003 to 36% in 2016. The scenario of economic empowerment of women is upgrading day by day.
An educated woman can build up a prosperous and enrich nation with a high dignity. Being an educated mother, she ultimately gives a better upbringing to her child as a good citizen. When a nation rear up its children with education, they simultaneously play huge role for the upcoming educated generations. As we know, today's children are considered tomorrow's future generation. Napoleon Bonaparte said that, "Give me an educated mother and I shall promise you the birth of a civilized educated nation. Begum Rokeya established 'Sakhawat Memorial Girls School' in 1909 to spread education among women. The percentages of women education has been increased in Bangladesh comparatively than before. At present, there are 50.54% of women who have already enrolled in primary level to tertiary education sector in Bangladesh. This is a milestone and positive indicator of women education to eradicate women inequality and gender discrimination in this region. This indicates that the efforts of litterateurs and philosophers are paying positive impacts on women's social and mental growth.
Bangladesh is not lag behinds in south Asia in women empowerment and development. The women's leadership of Bangladesh exists in apex position in South Asia. This is noticeable that in this region where prime minister, speaker of the parliament, opposition leader of the parliament and education minister all of them are women. They not only uphold this position for being women but also for their educational quality, political knowledge, and personal diplomacy. Therefore, they are overwhelmed with a state high position and dignity those are playing marvelous effects on women's development. Apart from this fact, nowadays we are observing many incidents of women's discrimination, injustice, inequality and malpractice to women. These above mentioned incidents are really disheartening fact and shame incident for our nation. We have already enacted lot of laws, signed domestic and international treaties for protecting women rights and their dignity. But sometimes these system and procedures do not work accordingly for muscle power, misuse of power, and some other hidden factors. Changing masculinity mind set up of men, practicing ethics, upholding and practicing own culture, respect to women, respect to law, proper implementation of rational laws for the country, and mutual respect for each other can be prevented women's discrimination, injustice and inequality. On the other, the following factors will be played vital role and important factor to eradicate women's discrimination respectively commemorating Rokeya Day, discussing her literacy works regularly, inset a course on her in academic syllabus, proper implementation of women development policy-2011 and Child marriage restrain act-2017. Personal awareness and pro-active role of civil society can be another way out of women's discrimination and injustice.
There is no alternative option to precede progress of a society without women's development and prosperity. Man and woman are alternative to each other. They were contributing in different movements and struggles together over the history of human civilization including the Liberation War of Bangladesh and some other movements of Bengal. They always stay beside with each other for protecting holistic interest of human society. Consequently, we cannot think any development without a single entity of human being. Kazi Nuzrul Islam, national poet of Bangladesh said, "None is high or low, all men (including women) equal". On the hand, he mentioned that without the mental support and courage of woman, a man could not conquer in a battle. They assisted to men in every step of human civilization and societal development. If we look at the name of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, we observe that she was also talk about gender equality. Her elder brother Ibrahim and husband Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hossain assisted her to be a Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in Bangla literature. Although she got married in an early stage of her life, she did not stop her study and dream. She was stick together to fulfill Sultana's dream like for ordinary girls of marginalized society. Bangladeshi women can learn something from Begum Rokeya's life and her philosophy to be a Rokeya in this region. We hope, some Rokeyas will come forward to uphold that position and they will contribute in our society in order to ensure gender equality for all.
First of all, we should unite together on account of every 'Rokeya Day of December Nine' in order to ensure holistic development for all. Secondly, we should look forward to build up a path in which we can walk together in smooth and peaceful way by tackling broken path. Therefore, we can reach in our destination through good mentality, positive thinking, mutual assistance, sympathy and showing respect to each other. We come up with a solution to build up our society though peaceful means and gender equality. Last but not the least, without ensuring development for all and gender equality, no nation can go ahead in sustainable development stage. Achieving education and economic freedom can ensure women's dignity and security in our society.
(The writer is a freelance researcher). Needs and Process Theories Guide to Understanding Motivation)