Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was first and foremost a very courageous woman who dared to fight against all odds and achieve for women a status of dignity, self-reliance and creative agency in a time and milieu that was hostile, inhospitable and even against the equal rights of men and women. She was a Muslim feminist and social reformer who dedicated her life to the cause of educating and empowering women. Born in 1880 in a small village in Pairaband in the district of Rangpur now in Bangladesh during British colonial rule, Rokeya grew up in a Muslim family that followed the purdah, a strict set of social rules which required the seclusion of women from society. However, despite these structural constraints Rokeya first educated herself and then championed the cause of women’s education and also went on to open a girls’ school for the mission.
Rokeya’s father was a rich landowner who was keen to educate his two sons Abul Asad Ibrahim Saber and Khalil Saber. However, he did not prioritize the education of his daughters. Rokeya’s brothers were deeply inspired by their western education and upon Rokeya’s insistence began to secretly teach Rokeya and her sister Bengali and English. However, before the age of 15, Rokeya’s sister was forced into a child marriage.
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