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POST TIME: 9 December, 2016 10:13:29 PM
The enduring legacy of Begum Rokeya

The enduring legacy of Begum Rokeya

Begum Rokeya Day was observed yesterday all over the country. Even after 84 years after the death of the great lady, her legacy is as relevant as ever. What makes Begum Rokeya unparalleled among all those who fought for women's rights is her indomitable, unswerving courage and sustained activism against the established system. In order to awaken the Muslim women from the slumber that the patriarchy imposed on them she walked from door-to-door and organised them under the banner of Anjuman-i-Khawatin-i-Islam (Islamic Sisters Group). She did this at a time when women's participation in such organisa­tional or political work was quite unthinkable.
The context in which the woman struggled for women's rights and educational opportunities is important. Begum Rokeya was brought up in the strictest form of conservatism practiced by elite Muslims of the time. In spite of that she became the fiercest critic of the system in later years that gives us an idea of the immense insight she had about her life and times. She was not only an intellectual force on behalf of rights of women but also an activist.
Way back in March 1911, she set up a school named Sakhawat Memorial School for Girls (which still is spreading the light of education), for the purpose of educating Muslim girls. Negative attitude and hostility to female education on the basis of distorted interpretation of Islamic texts was overwhelming in the entire British India. The champion of Muslim educationist Sayyid Ahmad Khan understood the need for female education and women's empowerment. But even he dared not advance female education fearing that such a move might thwart his entire education agenda.
In this respect, Begum Rokeya’s sheer courage stood out. She waged an all-out war against women's passivity, their incarceration in the domestic enclosure, lack of access to educational opportunities, restrictions placed on their role in public life, and against the legal and social discriminations against them.