Inspired by the Bengal Renaissance: Rokeya’s Role in the Education and Emancipation of Bengali (Muslim) Women
Mohammad A. Quayum
Abstract: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) is often considered as one of the most significant figures in the education and emancipation of Bengali (Muslim) women, especially during the early decades of the twentieth century. A contemporary of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Sarat Chandra Chattapadhyay (1876-1938) and Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), she was not only a brilliant writer but also one who passionately fought for the rights and dignity of women, as well as for women’s social, economic, and intellectual empowerment. Here I would like to argue that Rokeya’s efforts in educating and emancipating Indian women in general, and Bengali Muslim women in particular, were part of a larger social reform program or movement which began in Bengal in the early decades of the nineteenth century and lasted through the first half of the twentieth century, eventually resulting in a change in the course of Bengal’s history, as well as in the fate and circumstances of Bengali (Muslim) women. In other words, I contend that Rokeya was influenced and inspired by this movement in taking up the gauntlet against the deeply entrenched patriarchy that shaped the mind and habits of her society.
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Published in September 2020