Bangladesch: Ebadon Bibi

Today, Bangladesh's fundamentalist forces find that they cannot cope with the organized power of the common people united under Ebadon Bibi's leadership.

— Ebadon Bibi

Ebadon Bibi (born 1945), once a daily-wage laborer, is now a spirited activist fighting for the rights of landless people like herself. Bold and innovative, Ebadon is a natural motivator. She is credited with popularizing the Rokeya Day celebrations on the birthday of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (renowned educationist and philosopher), which remain a clarion call to defeat fundamentalist and regressive forces. Her work has brought about a sea-change in the lives and attitudes of the landless people in her village and its surrounding areas.

Ebadon Bibi lived her youth in drudgery, working for a pittance to feed her family, and married off at age 11. Then she came into contact with Nijera Kori (which means doing it ourselves). She heard the Nijera Kori activists who visited her village, and was deeply impressed by the idea that she and other landless people could refashion a better life by organizing themselves. So, she was the first person in her village, Sekhahati Gram, to welcome the activists and show them around. Sekhahati, in Dogra, one of Bangladesh's poorest districts, was conservative: it was atypical of women to take such an active role in village matters. But Ebadon worked patiently to mobilize the women, forming women's groups, inspiring the groups' members to take up issues that affected their lives and livelihood. From the very beginning, Ebadon's activities with the landless were rooted in steely ideological conviction. Under her leadership, the group has been celebrating Rokeya Day on December 9, organizing mass gatherings and cultural events, even influencing other organizations to join in. Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a renowned educationist and philosopher, was born in the village where Ebadon now lives. For her, the celebrations are a vehicle for challenging fundamentalist forces and the prejudices that disempower women. Ebadon believes that if women are to take control of and change their lives, they need to unite. She has inspired women to break with the antipathies and illiberalities that reined them in, and she has been active in the education of both girls and boys.

Landless Organization of Hosenpur