Begum Roquia also known as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, Begum R. S. Hussain or Begum Rokeya, was a pioneer of women’s liberation movement in the Indian subcontinent. Roquia Khatun(name before his marrige) was born in 1880 in the village of Pairabondh, Rangpur, in what was then the British Indian Empire and is now Bangladesh. Her family was an aristrocratic Muslim family. Her father, Jahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Haidar Saber, was a highly educated landlord . English and Bangla ware forbidden languages at her home. The medium of education at home was the combination of both Arabic and Persian languages. But Roquia eventually learned both English and Bangla with the help of her elder brother Ibraheem. Roquia married at the age of sixteen in 1896. Her Urdu-speaking husband, Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hussain, was the Deputy Magistrate of Bhagalpur, which is now a district under the Indian state of Bihar. Sakhawat Hussain also was a progressive supporter of the women’s education movement. He continued her brother’s work by encouraging her to keep learning Bangla and English. He also suggested that she write, and on his advice she adopted Bangla as the principal language for her literary works because it was the language of the masses. He encouraged his wife to accumulate money to use in the founding of a school primarily for Muslim girls. Begum Roquia set up the Sakhawat Memorial High School in 1909, naming it in tribute of her husband who died earlier the same year. She wrote courageously against restrictions on women in order to promote their emancipation, which, she believed, would come about by breaking the gender division of labor. She rejected discrimination for women in the public arena and believed that discrimination would cease only when women were able to undertake whatever profession they chose. Well-known and respected as a social reformer, thinker, writer and feminist, Begum Rokeya died in Calcutta in 1932 after a long life struggling so that other women might do as she had and be free to be themselves. She remains a revered and celebrated figure in the history of Bangladesh.
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