Sheikh Hasina Wazed and her family have played a nominal role in the politics of Bangladesh. From an early age, she was exposed to the political chaos and violence going on in her home country. The countries political affairs were so unstable that in 1971 Bangladesh separated completely from Pakistan, an event in which her father played an integral role. The atmosphere was so dysfunctional that the resulting political discord left Sheikh no choice but to leave the country for a few years. Upon her return, she became completely dedicated to changing the country from one of violence to one dedicated to democracy. Before her interference, elections were often rigged, voting was not guaranteed or even counted properly, and the country was so volatile that those who opposed the government were often jailed, exiled, or even murdered. Through this amazingly strong woman’s dedication, Bangladesh has significantly improved becoming less violent, more democratic, and allowing more civil liberties than ever before. Women have been given a voice in politics thanks to her interest in women and children’s rights. This leader is a survivor in all senses of the word, and she continues to strive for a better life for her and her fellow Bangladeshis as current Prime Minister.
Childhood & Early Life
This leader was born on September 28, 1947 into a life of turmoil and violence. Her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was integral in the movement to separate Bangladesh from Pakistan and also became the first President of Bangladesh.
While simultaneously studying at the University of Dhaka in the 1960s, she worked as her father’s political liaison while he was imprisoned.
On August 15, 1975 she was met with unfortunate tragedy. Her father, mother, and three brothers were all murdered in their home by military officers. As a result, she went into lonely exile for the next six years.
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In 1981, she returned to Bangladesh and became a strong advocate for democracy. She was elected to lead the ‘Awami League Party’ in February. Unfortunately, her unpopular opinions put her under house arrest or in prison for most of the decade.
In 1990, through a constitutional process, she offered General Ershad, who had gained power through a coup and led though martial law, a 24-hour ultimatum which ultimately led to him to quit.
In the elections that followed, her party, the ‘Bangladesh Nationalist Party’ (BNP) convinced the government to change from one of complete executive control to one where the Parliament was supreme and the executive party more accountable.
Her next task was to create an equal voting process. Prior to her pushing voting as a basic human and political right in 1996, elections were generally falsified through selective voting lists, predetermined votes, and a slanted counting process. An amendment for neutral and free elections was passed the same year.
On June 23rd, 1996, she was elected and sworn in as the second female Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Throughout her term, the country continued to be in political, often violent, chaos.
In 2001, she lost the election and political turmoil only got worse. There were violent protests and strikes, grenade attacks, and extreme political unrest. She led the party opposing the government for the next seven years.
During her tenure in the opposition she became the target of an assassination attempt in 2004. The grenade attack aimed at her resulted in the death of 21 fellow ‘Awami League’ members.
In 2007, the government declared a state of emergency and further canceled parliamentary elections. At the same time, Hasina was arrested on charges of extortion and murder. She was not released until a year later for medical concerns.
In 2009, she was elected as Prime Minister once again. Like her first term, she was forced to confront major revolts and civil unrest.
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She continues to serve as Prime Minister today after winning again in 2014. She remains dedicated to creating a government in which democracy and civil liberties can flourish.
The most significant move of her career was the signing of the ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord’ in December 1997. The treaty was an agreement between Bangladeshi government and the ‘Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti’, a political organization armed with a militia. The peace agreement ended decades of violence, confrontation, and hostility between the government and the tribes of the region.
Awards & Achievements
In 1997, alongside the Queen of Spain and the United States First Lady Hilary Clinton, she was invited to co-chair the ‘Micro-credit Summit’ which became an important humanitarian movement.
In 1998, she was awarded the ‘Mother Teresa Award’ by the ‘All India Peace Council’. She was given the award for her peace efforts involving the tribes of Bangladesh and her efforts to prohibit the use of anti-personnel mines, the first country in South Asia to make this move.
In 1998, she was also awarded the ‘M K Gandhi Award’ in Norway’s ‘Mahatma M K Gandhi Foundation’. She received the honor for her significant contribution to promoting peaceful understanding and democracy in Bangladesh.
Personal Life & Legacy
She married in 1968 to a prominent Bengali scientist, M.A. Wazed Miah. Together the couple had one son and one daughter.
Her son, Sajeeb Wazad, follows her footsteps remaining active in the ‘Awami League’. It is rumored his net worth is over $1 billion, making him one of the richest men in Bangladesh.
This famous political leader’s father’s political dealings and eventual imprisonment caused her to live a life in fear. She took refuge by living with her grandmother where she was not allowed to attend school.