Sultana Kamal

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Sultana Kamal
Born 1950 (age 63–64)
Education MA
Alma mater University of Dhaka
Occupation activist
Spouse(s) Supriya Chakraborty
Parents Kamal Uddin Ahmed
Sufia Kamal
Awards John Humphrey Freedom Award

Sultana Kamal (Bengali: সুলতানা কামাল) is a Bangladeshi lawyer and human rights activist. She serves as the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, a civil rights organization.[1][2] In 2006, she served as adviser in the interim, nonpartisan, technocratic Caretaker government of Bangladesh led by President Iajuddin Ahmed during the 2006-2008 Bangladeshi political crisis.[3] Kamal, along with three other advisers, resigned from the caretaker government[4] Her mother Sufia Kamal was a participant of the Bangladesh Liberation War.

She writes in the dailies and periodicals on social, legal and gender issues. She has published a book on women's legal rights titled "Manobir Nishanka Mon" translated into English under the title of "Her Unfearing Mind". Her latest publications include "Manabidhakar, Rashtra O Samaj" (Human Rights, State and the Society) and Chilam Kothay Jeno Nilimar Niche, compilation of articles written by her over the last twenty five years. She travelled to more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific, United Nations and Canada and Europe in professional capacity to address issues related to human and women's rights. She lectured in various Universities including University of Toronto and the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Oxford University.

At present she is the Executive Director of Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK). In addition to that she is now the Chairperson of the We Can End Violence Against Women Alliance and Chairperson for Transparency International Bangladesh. She is also Co-chairperson for the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. She is a trustee of Freedom Foundation and Protichi Bangladesh founded by Amartya Sen, The Gandhi Ashram Trust, Rokeya Memorial Foundation, a national council member of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Member of Bangladesh UNESCO National Commission, The National Legal Aid Committee, The Blue Planet Initiative, Member of Asia Pacific Forum for Women Law and Development (Regional Network), Women Living Under Muslim Laws (International Network), South Asians For Human Right and South Asian Partnership among many others.

She had been appointed as an Advisor to the Caretaker Government in October 2006 from which she resigned with 3 other colleagues in December which helped Lt. Gen. Moeen to take over power. Sheikh Hasina claimed that they failed to discharge their responsibilities including to hold parliamentary elections.[5]

Sultana Kamal was born to a family that was engaged in progressive movements of the sub-continent since the days before partition. She naturally became involved in the women's as well as human rights movement. Her father Kamaluddin Ahmad Khan and mother Sufia Kamal both were in the forefront of the movements for intellectual freedom, freedom of thought and conscience in the beginning of their lives.

Sultana was active in a children's organisation Kachi Kanchar Mela, Cultural group Sangskriti Sangsad, Struggles for Cultural Autonomy and the '69 mass upheavals as well as other social movements. Sultana was a founder member of the famous drama group "Nagorik Natya Samproday" and has acted in leading roles in its earlier productions.

She completed her Masters in English Literature in 1971 from Dhaka University. In 1971, she also joined the Mukti bahini and was one of the founders of the Bangladesh Field Hospital in Agartala for the freedom fighters. Sultana and her sister Saeeda were the two out of four women to get the CNC's Special Commendation for their role in the liberation war.

During her work with the women in post war Bangladesh, she felt the need to study law and became a lawyer with the hope to provide legal assistance to the disenfranchised, especially women.

In 1981 she completed her Masters in Development Studies from the Netherlands specializing in Women and Development. Starting her career as a teacher, she worked with Bangladesh Tobacco Company in the legal department. Her next job was in an international voluntary organization from 1976-1980. She mostly worked voluntarily in that area briefly working for the Vietnamese Boat People in Hong Kong as the Legal Consultant with UNHCR (1989–90). She received Ananya Top Ten award in 1995 and the John Humphrey Freedom Award 1996 Canada for her involvement in the human rights and women's rights activities.

She is married with one daughter. Her husband, two brothers and two sisters are also well known in their own professional fields for their contribution in social activism.

Early life and education[edit]

Sultana was born to Kamal Uddin Ahmed and Sufia Kamal in 1950. Sufia was a writer and poet.[6] She was enrolled in Leela Nagh’s Nari Shikhkha Mondir. She passed SSC from Azimpur Girls' High School and HSC from Holy Cross College. She received her Master's from University of Dhaka. Again in 1978 she completed her LLB. She also passed BCS Examination. She achieved Masters of development studies in Women and Development in Netherlands.


Sultana started her career as a teacher in the Music College. She joined Bangladesh Tobacco Company. In 1976 she entered an international voluntary service in Khadimnagar, Sylhet. Up to 1990 she worked for Vietnamese boat peoples in Hong Kong as a UN legal consultant. In 1996, she won the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the Canadian human rights group Rights & Democracy.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Sultana is married to Supriya Chakraborty, a lawyer in Sylhet.[citation needed]