A Tribute to Ruqaiya, The Pioneer of Women Empowerment and Liberation

Since the dawn of civilisation, women have been victims of the patriarchal society. They have been subjected to the harshest atrocities and yet expected to be forgiving. Women have always been considered as complacent and benevolent creatures who are fit to stay confined within the four walls of their houses by the patriarchal society. They were treated as subjugated beings who were meant to be ruled by the physically stronger sex.

But time and again, there have been some historical figures who revolted against this orthodoxy and ignited the flames of a revolution. Yesterday’s event on Abrodh Baasini at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir was about one such woman named Ruqaiya who raised her voice against the prevalent societal norms and customs and became one of the pioneers of women empowerment and emancipation.

It takes a lot of courage to raise one’s voice against the society but Ruqaiya who was born almost a hundred and thirty-seven years earlier was determined to fight against the male chauvinistic society and bring about a change for all women.

Ruqaiya was born in a Zamindar family in Bengal. The system of purdah was very prevalent in her family as well as the society. She got married at the age of 18 to Sakhawat Hussain, a goverment employee who lived in Bihar.

After her husband’s death in 1909, Ruqaiya realised that it was time for her to do something for the society and thus, she devoted her entire life to social service. She laid the foundation of a girls school in Bhagalpur in Bihar and established another school named Sakhawat Hussain Memorial School in Calcutta. She wanted to educate the girl child because she thought that education alone could help change the condition of women.

Her efforts became instrumental in propagating education among the girls. She had to face a lot of hurdles but she was determined to overcome all of them by the dint of perseverance and labour.

Ruqaiya wrote a number of essays, novels and dramas, most of them in Bangla and English. One of her most famous works is ‘Sultana’s Dreams’ which was first published in 1905 in the Indian Ladies’ Magazine. She even laid the foundation of ‘Khawateen-e-Islam’, a society for the upliftment of women especially Muslim women since they were the primary victims of the purdah system.

In our country, there has always been a great hue and cry about women empowerment and liberation of women but whenever someone tried to implement this in practical terms, the society dealt with them with an iron hand. The patriarchal society has always been ready to quash the growth and development of women at every step. It is with the efforts of women like Ruqaiya that the status of women in the present society has changed.


At yesterday’s event, some prominent theatre artists like Nivedita Shakeel, Chandrakanta, Nutan, Mona Jha and Naseeruddin presented the life history of Ruqaiya under the direction and supervision of Tanveer Akhtar. Naseeruddin has been trying to make people acquainted with Ruqaiya and her works for the past 12-13 years. The artists recited five of her stories on stage in order to have more far-reaching effects on the audience. Eminent personalities from all walks of life were present at the event.

Women are the other half of the society and thus, they should be treated as equals. They are not meant to live in their homes as dolls or puppets. They are free to live a life of independence and liberty and this theme was wonderfully presented by Naseeruddin and his entire team and the message got home effectively. We congratulate them for their efforts and hope that they continue propagating the themes of women empowerment for bringing about a real change in the society.

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Quote of the day:“Instead of complaining about the problem and blaming others, start finding the solution.” 
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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