Friday, October 21, 2011

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain is a Muslim feminist of Bangladesh. She was not only a Muslim feminist of Bangladesh but also educationist, prolific writer, modern feminist writers and a social worker of Bangladesh. She played an important role in awakening Muslim women in the Asia region. She established the first school for Muslim girls and aimed primarily, which still exists today. Roquia Sakhawat Hussain is very famous for her efforts on behalf of gender equality. She is also generally known as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. She is one of
the notable persons of Bangladesh and one of the top class feminist of Asia region.

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain was born on 9 December 1880 at the village of Pairaband in Rangpur. Her father’s name was Jahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Haider Saber and her mother was Rahatunnesa Chowdhury. Her full name was then Roquia Khatun but after married she achieved prominence as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. “Begum” is an honorific title of respect in addressing a woman. Roquia Sakhawat Hussain had two sisters and three brothers. Her one of the three brothers died in childhood. Her eldest brother Ibrahim and her elder sister Karimunnesa had a great influence on her life.

In 1896 or 1898, Roquia Khatun married at the age of sixteen to Syed Sakhawat Hussain. Her husband was an Urdu-speaker and the Deputy Magistrate of Bhagalpur (At present a district under the Indian state of Bihar). Syed Sakhawat Hussain encouraged his wife to study Bangla and English and inspired her to read literary works from home and abroad. He also encouraged his wife to set up a school primarily for Muslim women. She started writing at the inspiration of her husband but unfortunately, Syed Sakhawat Hussain died on 3rd May 1909. They had two daughters and they also died in infancy.

After five months of her husband’s death, on 1st October 1909, Roquia Sakhawat Hussain established a high school at Bhagalpur and naming it “Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School”, which still exists today. She started her school only five students. That time, Muslim girl’s education was not allowed to their family. But in 1911, she decided to move her school at Calcutta due to Bhagalpur for domestic reasons. She again set up her school on 16 March 1911 at 13 Waliullah Lane in a house. The school was upgraded to Middle English Girls' School in 1917 and in 1931; this school was upgraded to High English Girls' School. Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School remains one of the city's most popular schools for girls and is now run by the state government of West Bengal.

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain was the founder director of the Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam (Islamic Women's Association). It was conferences about the status of women and education. It organized many events for social reforms, teachings of Islam and women rights because Begum Roquia inspired by Islam. She criticized then the ruler of the society because there was a big gap between man and women. Then rulers of the society forceda corrupted version of Islam and as a result, they created big gender discrimination in the society. Begum Roquia courageously against this gender discrimination and tried to reform the true Islam.

She also wrote many books in Bengali about the rights of women in society and Islam and gender equity, including Narir Adhikar (The Rights of Women), Oborodhbashini (The woman in captivity), Paddorag (Essence of the Lotus), Nurse Nelly, Sultana's Dream (a notable work of feminist science fiction), Nari-Sristi (Creation of Women), Jnan-phal, Motichur etc. Besides this, many of her other poems and essays were also published in the magazine.

Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain died on 9th December, 1932 at the age of 52 due to heart problems in Calcutta (Present Kolkata). Now every year on December 9 is celebrated as “Rokeya Day” in Bangladesh. It is one of the special days of Bangladesh.


  1. Roquia Sakhawat Hussain really helps Bengali and other Muslim women to get their proper education.

  2. She is my one of the favorite poet in Bangladeshi literature.