Sheikh Hasina Wazed

Sheikh Hasina Wazed was born into a political family. Her father was one of the key organisers of the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. She herself became involved in politics while studying at Dhaka University and worked as her father’s liaison while he was in prison. In 1975 her father and three brothers were assassinated; afterwards, she spent six years living in exile in India.

She returned to Bangladesh in 1981 where she became more vocal in the political world, and was elected the President of the Bangladesh Awami League. She worked throughout the 1980s to secure basic human rights for the people of Bangladesh. The first free election in over 16 years took place in 1991, but the Bangladesh Awami League was unable to win a majority. The results were mired in controversy, however, and after years of demonstrations and political unrest, Hasina was elected Prime Minister in 1996.

During her first term as Prime Minister the policies she implemented led to the country’s economic growth. The telecom industry was opened to the private sector, and her government launched the New Industrial Policy which aimed to encourage growth in the private sector. Despite these successes, she was not re-elected in 2001. She spent the next seven years as the opposition leader. An assassination attempt was made on her life in 2004.

She was elected Prime Minister for the second time in 2009. Her second term has seen her face a number of scandals. The biggest has become known as the Padma Bridge Graft Scandal: it’s been alleged that her party took payment from a Canadian construction company in return for awarding them a large contract. It took Hasina a number of months to remove the communications minister from his role; he was the alleged mastermind of the scheme.

Despite this she has been honoured many times over the years, including the UNESCO Peace Tree award for her commitment to women’s empowerment and girl’s education in 2014, the UN environment prize for leadership on climate change, and in 2017 she was named by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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