At the tender age of 16, Alamtaz Begum became a muktijoddha (freedom fighter) for Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971. When I met her in 2000, she lived in a two-room flat with a sister, two daughters and granddaughter.
Nearly 30 years after the war ended she was still fighting – for a decent livelihood, independent life and the future of her daughters and grandchild.
A large number of women fought for Bangladesh’s independence, but we recognize only a few names. The label of muktijoddha is sold on certificates and used to garner political weight, while those who actually fought go unnoticed. Recently, newspapers in Dhaka published accounts of a veterans’ organization trying to discredit the most decorated woman muktijoddha, Taramon Bibi.
In media that portray women largely as victims or pin-ups, we desperately need stories of ordinary Bangladeshi women who have beaten the odds.
Alamtaz’s story is one among hundreds of thousands that tell of the immense sacrifice and courage women have shown in their daily struggle, year after year. There are no medals, awards, holidays or plaques named after them.