Rokeya Kabir (born 1952) was one of the first activists in Bangladesh to forge the crucial link between grassroots women and the national and international women's movements. To materialize this global interconnection of grassroots movements, she and other women's activists set up the Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha in 1986. For 25 years now, she has been working on women's rights and minorities issues, incurring the wrath of the country's fundamentalist forces. Undeterred, she wades on-downsizing her operations and functioning with practically no funding.
Rokeya Kabir was among the vanguard in Bangladesh to bridge the grassroots-global gap between women's movements. Working on women's issues in various capacities and with different organizations for over a decade, she set up the Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (women's progress organization) in 1986, along with some like-minded people. "My involvement in working with people at the grassroots level in the rural and urban settings, especially with women, provided me with both insights and the opportunity to understand the problems in depth," she says. "I felt a dire need to build up a link between grassroots women and the national and international women's movements." For more than a quarter century, women's human rights and engaging minority rights issues through media, advocacy, campaigns, and awareness generation have been Rokeya's priorities. She has also contributed to policy issues, especially reforms in education policy and inheritance law, increased parliamentary representation for women with a provision for direct elections, and devolution of power to the local government, with women's effective participation. But choppiness seems to have tagged her for the past couple of decades. She and the Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha have been victimized by the present government, which has religious fundamentalist parties sharing power. "They have filed false cases against me," she says. "My organization has not been able to receive any funds for the past three years. At present, I am sustaining the Sangha by sizing it down and mobilizing voluntary efforts." She continues: "It is not just in Bangladesh, everywhere in the world inhumanity and fundamentalism are major forces now! But I am optimistic. If we are to make a good future, more people need to be more proactive."
Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha