Bengali women past and present celebrated on International Women’s Day
The contribution of British Bengali women to society was celebrated at the Notting Hill based Bangladesh Centre as part of International Women’s Day.
Organised by BritBangla in partnership with British Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and supported by BRAC UK, the theme of the evening was the recognition and achievements of Bengali women from the past and present.
Contemporary Bengali women from different professional backgrounds participated in the celebrations by giving inspirational talks on their female mentors, their views on whether women are currently underrepresented in the sectors they work in and how it is to be a Bengali female in their professions.
Taryn Khanam of BritBangla said: “In highlighting the Bengali female personalities, the evening was an occasion to hear the moving stories of the role women played in social activism, education and challenging the status quo.”
One of the first Bengali women architect in the UK, Shaheen Westcombe MBE spoke of her life experiences.
The audience were also enlightened by her presentation on the iconic figure Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932), a Bengali writer, social reformer, and educationalist, campaigner of gender equality, community cohesion and human rights.
The much-respected Salma Salim from Surma Newspaper praised Bengali women for the positive role in their professional advancement and supporting family life.
Prospective Labour parliamentary candidate, Rushnara Ali spoke about the under representation of Bengali women in politics and encouraged women to be more active in the policy process that affects the community.
CEO of BRAC UK, Sandra Kabir emphasised the importance of empowering women to help themselves and other women by volunteering their skills for community and social development.
Other BritBangla members including chartered clinical psychologist, Dr Momotaj Islam, lawyer, Nilopar Uddin, financial researcher, Samea Rahman and immigration caseworker, Suraiya Ali shared their personal experiences about their careers.
Dr Islam said: “It was enriching to meet so many Bengali women who are successful in different professional fields. It was a good idea to emphasise the achievements of Bengali women across the generations. If we think about it there were far more barriers for the older women to overcome than for the current generation – it makes their achievements seem even more great. They are an inspiration to us all.”
Nilopar Uddin said: “My inspiration are the thousands of women in Britain today who would never think of trumpeting their achievements but by whose labour the likes of me went to university to get a law degree, a masters distinction, admissions to the Bars of England and Wales and New York. ”
She added: “International Women’s Day is a celebration of women at the forefront of public life and those perched on the back benches – because behind every successful women, there is a mother, a sister and a friend supporting her success.”