Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I Is For Nilima Ibrahim
Nilima was a career academic, an unusual occupation in an area where women all too often do not have a voice. She earned her bachelor's degree from Scottish Church College and her MA in Bengali literature from the University of Calcutta in 1943. She would later go to earn a doctorate from the University of Dhaka in 1959. This was at a time when there were not even a whole lot of Western women earning advanced degrees. She taught at various schools such as Khulna Coronation Girls School and Loreto House, until her appointment as lecturer at the University of Dhaka. In 1972 she became a full professor.
Nilima's writing career took off shortly after her doctoral degree in the late 1950's. She published various works on Bengali literature, essays on the origin and development of the literary traditions, as well as a short biography of Bengal poet Banglar Kavi Madhusudan. She wrote several novels, short stories, plays and even a travelogue. Nilima also translated several works into her native Bengali including biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and author James Fenimore Cooper.
Her seminal work, though, was a collection of accounts of the rape of Bengali women during the 1971 liberation war called Ami Virangana Bolchhi, or I, the Heroine Speaks, published in 1996. Here, at last, the women brutalized during that time were given a voice, a chance to make their stories known to world after twenty-five years of silence.
Nilima was honored with the Ananya Literary Award in 1996 as well as the Begum Rokeya Medal. In 2000, she was given the Ekushey Padak Award, which is the one of the highest civilian honors in Bangladesh, named for the martyrs of the Language Movement of 1952, a political demonstration that turned violent and resulted in the killings of several students.
Nilima published her autobiography in 1991 entitled Bindu-Visarga or Dot and Ghost.
She served as the Vice Chair Person of the World Women's Federation South Asian Zone.
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