Friday marked the 21st death anniversary of Begum Sufia Kamal, country's trailblazing woman activist, poet and educationist.
The day has been observed in befitting manners by different socio-cultural organisations throughout the years, however, this year the day was observed with limited arrangements due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19.
Commemorating the eminent personality, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have issued separate messages on Thursday, paying great respect to the life and memories of Begum Sufia Kamal.
Besides, several socio-cultural organisations including Bangladesh Mahila Parishad remembered the poet on social media, the organization to which she was the founding president.
A woman ahead of her time and the 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.
Born on June 20, 1911 at Shayestabad, Barishal to Abdul Bari and Sabera Begum, Begum Sufia Kamal went on becoming 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 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 from 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, country'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 Chhayanaut, Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation and Nari Kalyan Sangstha. She was also the first Chairperson of BRAC.
Sufia Kamal received a large number of 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 November 20, 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.