Sufia Kamal’s 22nd death anniversary observed

Begum Sufia KamalUNB

The 22nd death anniversary of Begum Sufia Kamal, country’s pioneering woman activist, poet and educationist was observed on Saturday.

The day was observed in a befitting manner by different socio-cultural organisations, unlike last year’s limited programmes due to the pandemic being near its peak.

Commemorating the eminent personality, president Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate massages.

Besides, several socio-cultural organisations including Bangladesh Mahila Parishad remembered the poet on social media.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad is the organisation of which Sufia Kamal was the founding president.

A woman ahead of her time, Sufia Kamal was instrumental in naming the first women’s dormitory of Dhaka University as Rokeya Hall after Begum Rokeya, the legendary educationist who was her own inspiration.

Born on 20 June, 1911 at Shayestabad, Barishal to Abdul Bari and Sabera Begum, Begum Sufia Kamal went on to become a civil society leader and a pioneer activist for women’s rights.

She played active roles in the 1952 Language Movement, the oppressions against the nation before and during the 1971 Liberation War and every human rights movement in independent Bangladesh till her demise.

Despite lacking formal education during her childhood, she learned multiple languages at her home including Bengali, Hindi, English, Urdu, Arabic, Kurdish and Persian. Her first book of poems, Sanjher Maya, was published from Kolkata in 1938 and praised by legendary litterateur Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore.

As a poet and author, she wrote more than a dozen volumes of poetry and several volumes of short stories, short novels, travelogues, etc. Her journal entries in Ekatturer Diary (Diary of 71) narrated the horrific stories during the 1971 Liberation War. She was the founding editor of Begum, country’s first women’s magazine.

Sufia Kamal was the founding-chairperson of The Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Board, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (now Brac), and Dustha Punarbasan Sangstha. She was the president of Chhayanaut, Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation and Nari Kalyan Sangstha.

Sufia Kamal received numerous awards including the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (1961), a major national award conferred by the Pakistani government that she returned in 1969 in protest at the then government’s oppressive treatment to Bengali people.

Her major achievements include Bangla Academy Award for Literature (1962), Ekushey Padak (1976), Jatiya Kabita Parishad Award (1995), Women’s Federation for World Peace Crest (1996), Begum Rokeya Padak (1996), Deshbandhu CR Das Gold Medal (1996), Independence Day Award (1997), Czechoslovakia Medal (1986) and more.

Besides, the National Public Library in Dhaka is named the Sufia Kamal National Public Library and Bangladesh National Museum named one of its main auditoriums in her honour.

Sufia Kamal passed away on 20 November, 1999. She was survived by her three daughters and two sons, including Sultana Kamal, a noted human rights activist and former adviser in the Caretaker government of Bangladesh.