Google on Thursday celebrated the 108th birthday of a fearless advocate for Bengali culture Sufia Kamal who championed the women’s rights movement in her homeland of Bangladesh.
“I had an indomitable nature, and I crossed my limits to get a taste of all there was,” said Bengali poet and political activist Sufia Kamal.
Sufia Kamal was born on June 20, 1911, in the Shayestabad Nawab family in Barisal. Raised in a well-off Muslim family, Kamal was not able to pursue the same education as her older brother. While boys went to high school, girls were expected to stay home until marriage.
“I was allowed to learn Arabic and a little Persian, but not Bengali,” she later recalled. Learning the local language from household workers, she used it in her writing and became an internationally renowned author.
Encouraged by her mother, Kamal educated herself in her uncle’s extensive library. She published her first story, “Sainik Badhu” (Soldier’s Bride) in Taroon (Youth) magazine at age 14. As she continued writing, she earned the respect of renowned authors like Rabindranath Tagore and had her work translated into English and Russian.
In 1947, Sufia Kamal became the first editor of Begum, a weekly magazine for Muslim women. Taking an active part in the Bengali language movement, she also founded the children’s organization Kanchi-Kancher Ashor and Chhayanaut, a cultural organisation for the preservation of Bengali culture. Her social work continued with the establishment of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, the country’s largest women’s organisation.
Recognized as one of the most celebrated figures in Bengali history, Kamal was honored in 2010 when the National Public Library in Dhaka was renamed the Sufia Kamal National Public Library.