Sunday marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of poet and feminist Begum Sufia Kamal.
Also revered as the trailblazing woman rights activist, poet and educationist who took part in the Bengali nationalist movement of the 1950s and then established herself as one of the iconic civil society leaders in independent Bangladesh, Sufia Kamal was born on June 20, 1911, at Shayestabad, Barisal in then British India.
Commemorating the day, several socio-cultural organisations including Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) and Chhayanaut are organizing special programmes in remembrance of the poet and activist.
However, due to the ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, both organizations are celebrating the day with virtual programmes.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) is hosting a special online event at 3 pm on its official Facebook page. To commemorate the pioneer's 110th birth anniversary, the programme is featuring online memorial speeches, poet Sufia Kamal Award giving ceremony and musical performances. BMP's current president Dr Fauzia Moslem will preside over the event.
Rabindra University Vice-Chancellor Professor Biswajit Ghosh will deliver a commemorative speech titled "Sufia Kamal and the Feminist Movement of Bangladesh" at the event, while the Poet Sufia Kamal Award-2020 (posthumously) will be conferred to journalist, teacher, politician and activist Nurjahan Murshid and Poet Sufia Kamal Award-2021 will be given to Kumudini Welfare Trust.
Celebrating the founding president's birth anniversary and the return of monsoon, country's leading cultural institution Chhayanat has been organizing a commemorative event every year, which could not take place last year due to the COVID-19 situation.
The programme will be telecast through the digital platforms of Chhayanaut including its Facebook page and YouTube channel on Sunday at 9 pm.
A woman ahead of her time and her contemporaries, Sufia Kamal was instrumental in naming the first women’s dormitory of Dhaka University as Rokeya Hall after the name of Begum Rokeya, the legendary educationist who was her own inspiration. She went on to become a civil society leader and a pioneer activist for women’s rights.
As a brave social activist, Sufia Kamal played active role in the 1952 language movement, the oppressions against the nation before and during the 1971 Liberation War and took part in every major human rights movement in 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 (The Eventide Spell), was published in Kolkata in 1938, which were praised by legendary litterateur Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore.
As a poet and writer, she then went on authoring more than a dozen volumes of poetry and several volumes of short stories, short novels, travelogues, etc. Her documentary book Ekatturer Diary (Diary of 71) narrated the horrific stories during the 1971 Liberation War. She was the founding editor of Begum, Bangladesh's maiden women’s magazine.
Sufia Kamal was the founding chairperson of The Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Board, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, Dustha Punarbasan Sangstha. She was the president of the Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation and Nari Kalyan Sangstha. She was also the first Chairperson of BRAC.
Sufia Kamal received many awards including the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (1961), a major national award conferred by the Pakistani government that she returned in 1969 in protest against 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 as Sufia Kamal National Public Library and Bangladesh National Museum named one of its main auditoriums in her honour.
Begum Sufia Kamal passed away on November 20, 1999. For her tremendous contribution in the society, she became the first woman to receive a state funeral in Bangladesh.