The Bangladesh Development Initiative (BDI), a non-partisan research and advocacy group of independent scholars based in the United States, has announced that Dr Hameeda Hossain is the recipient of the 2021 BDI Lifetime Achievement Award.
Established in 2012, this award is designed "to honor outstanding individuals or organizations who, through their scholarly and/or policy and civic engagements, have contributed significantly to understanding the challenges, and the ideals that have led to the development of Bangladesh and have improved the quality of life for its citizens."
Through the award, the Executive Committee of the BDI recognises and celebrates the work of a scholar or institution of high reputation and integrity whose work has inspired others to develop and implement ideas for the betterment of the people of Bangladesh.
This year, the BDI selection committee has determined that throughout her long and distinguished career, Dr Hossain has embodied the ideals of BDI by employing her knowledge, talents, time, and skills to work tirelessly to improve the lives of the poor and marginalized in Bangladeshi society.
At the age of 15, she won an essay competition sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune on the subject of "The World We Want". The prize was a three-month tour of the United States. It is no exaggeration to say that Dr Hossain has devoted her life to help create the world she wants, a world that takes seriously the needs of the most marginalized members of society.
Born in Hyderabad, Sindh, in 1936, Dr Hossain attended missionary schools in Karachi and Hyderabad. Her father Abdullah Akhund was a judge in colonial India. Her grandmother established a clinic and shelter for the refugees who came to Pakistan from India following Partition in 1947. Dr Hossain studied literature and history as an undergraduate at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, USA. She received her doctorate in history from Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Her thesis was published under the title of Company Weavers of Bengal Organization of Textile Production for the East India Company 1750-1813.
Hameeda Hossain's career has spanned publishing and editing, as well as crafts development and advocacy for women workers and human rights. She began her professional life as an editor with Oxford University Press in Karachi. She helped to co-found the English language political monthly magazine, Forum, in the then East Pakistan in 1967. Forum played a critical role in raising awareness of the systemic inequities and discrimination suffered by the people of East Pakistan. Between 1968 and March 1971, she served as the magazine's editor. After Bangladesh's independence, she joined the University Press Limited in Dhaka as an editor.
Following the 1971 Liberation War, Dr Hossain became actively involved in the rehabilitation of the women survivors of wartime sexual violence. Her efforts to develop and market local artisanal crafts led to the formation, in November 1974, of KARIKA - Bangladesh Hastashilpa Samabaya Federation Ltd. Dr. Hossain and her fellow volunteers established this pioneering craft cooperative run by artisans, including many survivors of wartime violence, with the objectives of putting the spotlight on the new nation's ancient culture and folk traditions and protecting the welfare of the artisans, the majority of whom were women.
Inspired by her work with artisans, she chose to write her doctoral dissertation at Oxford on the history of weavers in colonial Bengal, under the supervision of Tapan Raychaudhuri. She has published widely on a variety of topics, including women's experiences of the war, arts and crafts, the ready-made garment industry, women workers and human rights.
The 2021 BDI Lifetime Achievement Award will be formally presented at BDI's next international conference (date TBA). As the recipient of this award, Dr. Hameeda Hossain will be invited to offer a lecture on a subject of her choice.