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BHM17 – Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain

BHM - Rokeya Hussain

Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, or Begum Royeka, lived in what is now Bangladesh between 9 December 1880 and 9 December 1932. She was a fierce advocate for equality between women and men.

Her book ‘Sultana’s Dream’ showed a ‘Ladyland’ where roles were reversed and men lived restricted lives, to illustrate what women’s lives might be like if they were free, but also how silly this treatment looked when applied to men. I’ve always loved this book because I love feminist science fiction and also because one of the main characters has my name – Sara. I’m always surprised how few people have heard of it. It predicts changes for women in countries like Rwanda where the male population was reduced due to war – in Rwanda, 64% of elected representatives are women.

Royeka also wrote other works of fiction and wrote poetry and essays too, always advocating for women to be educated and well-treated.

Her non-fiction writing reminds me of the work Amina MWRC does with ‘The Best of Men’ – working with men to ensure they know more about how to speak out for women’s rights. She quoted the Quran and made strong connections between Islamic teachings and rights for girls and women.

She established a high school for girls, which exists to this day.

She’s celebrated in Bangladesh even now, and she’s a huge role model for me in my work in Amina’s VAW programme.