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           Volume 10 |Issue 09| March 04, 2011 |


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A Torch Bearer for an Enlightened Society

Sabit Farizma Iftekhar

Nurjahan Begum

Looking outside the verandah of her residence in Narinda, Nurjahan Begum believes she has seen it all. Today at the age of 85, she stands proudly, to have achieved the love of millions for her glorious contribution to Bangladesh's journalism and free spirit to Bangladesh's women journalists. On the eve of Amar Ekushey, she received the honorary 'Ekushey Podok 2011', for her outstanding contribution in journalism.

The world may recognise her as Nurjahan Begum but to me she has been the mentor of my life. Since my early childhood, I have seen her work day and night relentlessly for the 'Begum' magazine. I being her proud granddaughter, feel extremely privileged to have known her in person up-close. On the eve of the Ekushey February, this is a small tribute to my dearest grandmother for her magnificent accomplishment throughout the years as a renowned and distinguished journalist.

Born in June 4, 1925, to renowned journalist Md Nasiruddin and Fatema Begum, the young Nuri was just like any other child of her age. On her early school days, she was inspired by Begum Rokeya Shakhawat while attending junior classes at her school. I recall her saying to me, “She used to visit our class frequently to watch our work in school. I watched her with admiration.” Later as she grew up, she moved to Kolkata with her family and started learning the art of editing and journalism from her father. Ever since my early childhood days, she talked about my great grandfather's contribution, “Baba used to bring various books with colourful illustrations at home. He taught me to read through each article and select the ones which are informative to be published in the magazine.” Remembering how she first learnt journalism, she says, “After selecting the information, baba taught me to keep them separated in various folders titled 'World History', 'Achievements and Awards', 'General Knowledge', etc. Later these illustrations and articles helped us to publish writing on our magazine.”

'Begum' was published in 1947 at Kolkata, solely for women writers as the first women's magazine in Bangladesh, by great grandfather together with grandmother as subeditor. Since then till today there was no looking back. “It was so difficult to collect writings from women and capture their photos required for publishing in Begum. Muslim women were not allowed to go outside their homes for education. However, my father was keen at keeping the magazine only for women writers in order to establish their freedom at the society, to bring women out of the darkness and show them the road to liberate. In order to keep Begum running, he faced many obstacles over the early years. Despite the hardship we kept moving forward and requested our women writers to send us their writing,” she recollects. The 'Begum' magazine, meaning woman, received its name from great grandfather in order to represent women.

Nurjahan Begum

In the following years till today, she actively participates in the publishing process of the magazine. Her tremendous effort as an editor, social worker and journalist has earned her various awards. Some of the awards she received are 'Sufia Kamal Shommannona Podok 09', 'Bangladesh Nari Shangbadik Kendro Shommanona', 'Radhuni Kirtimuti', 'International Womens' day 2010, Bishesh shomannona: Prothom Nari Oggrodut', 'Annanya Shahitto Purushkar', 'Tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award' and 'Ekhushey Podok 2011'. “I have kept on working with my heart and soul and I am truly honoured to have received such recognition. It was my hard work, respect and dedication which made me the person I am today,” she expresses.

Her marriage to my grandfather, Rokunzzaman Khan, widely known as 'Dada bhai' has also contributed to her glorious life as a journalist. Being a journalist himself, he extended his love and gratitude to his wife and helped her over the years to establish the 'Begum' magazine. “My husband gave me the support I needed to move on as a writer. He was always there on my side to support me and encouraged me to continue my work even after marriage. My husband was always there whenever I needed him for assistance,” she recalls with respect. She is also the proud mother of two daughters, Flora Nasrin Khan and my mother, Rina Yasmin Iftekhar.

The 'Begum' magazine became a huge hit amongst housewives, elderly citizens and children in both the city and villages in Bangladesh. With the immense popularity, the writer base began to grow and hence more women writers were interested to get their articles and stories published. “We portray women's lifestyle, history, travel, education, achievements and many other topics in 'Begum'. It's a magazine for every age starting from the elderly to children defining the power of women in our society,” says Nurjahan Begum.

Hundreds of women writers have evolved due to the popularity of this magazine. Today there are women who are lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers and involved in other professions. However, the freedom which we have acquired today is due to the struggle and hard work of few such outstanding personalities like my grandmother who has dedicated her entire life to liberating women through writing. The love for her profession makes her a woman with outstanding persona. Nurjahan Begum has been born to enlighten the women in Bangladesh. Today she stands firm in her position with the recognition as the first eminent woman journalist in Bangladesh leading the road to glory for many women writers of the present and future.

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