Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, a veteran Awami League leader and Deputy Leader of the House, a key political figure who was one of the best-known women and national leaders of Bangladesh, has died at a hospital in Dhaka at the age of 87.
She passed away in Combined Military Hospital at 11:40pm on Sunday, said her son Shahab Akbar Chowdhury Labu.
Benazir Ahmed, an aide to Sajeda, said the politician was admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure and problems related to old age by the end of August.
Her funeral prayers will be held at the South Plaza of parliament at 11am on Monday, Benazir said.
The body will be taken to her constituency, Faridpur’s Nagarkanda, in the afternoon. The mortal remains will be brought back to Dhaka later for burial at Banani Graveyard.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock and sorrow at the death of the Awami League stalwart.
In a condolence message, Hamid said, "Sajeda Chowdhury played an important role in the movement to establish democracy in Bangladesh. Her contributions to keeping the organisational base of the Bangladesh Awami League strong after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu on Aug 15, 1975, will be remembered by the nation with respect.”
“Her immense courage and uncompromising leadership showed the nation the path of light during critical junctures. Her death has created a vacuum in the country's political sphere."
One of party chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s most trusted comrades, Sajeda Chowdhury had been involved with the Awami League since 1956.
She was the general secretary of the party’s front for women, Mohila Awami League, from 1969 to 1975.
During the 1971 Liberation War, Sajeda established and ran Gobra Nursing Camp in Kolkata. She also took part in the war. She earned Bangladesh’s highest civilian honour, the Independence Award, in 2010 for her contributions.
After independence, she worked as the director at Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Board from 1972 to 1975. She was also the national commissioner of Bangladesh Girl Guides at that time.
After the assassination of founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with most members of his family in 1975, Sajeda steered the Awami League through its most difficult times first as its acting general secretary and then as the general secretary.
After her stint as general secretary from 1986 to 1992, she joined its highest policymaking body, the presidium.
She was also the convenor of a committee to implement the Chattogram Hill Tracts peace accord that ended 25-year insurgency.
She was elected MP from Faridpur-2 seat several times.
Sajeda’s husband Golam Akbar Chowdhury passed away in 2015. They are survived by three sons and a daughter.
Born on May 8, 1935 to Syed Shah Hmid Ullah and Syeda Asia Khatun, Sajeda was elected a member of the Pakistan National Assembly in 1970. She was also elected MP in the first election held in 1973 after independence.
She served as the Deputy Leader of the House from 2009 onwards.
After the Awami League returned to power in 1996, she worked as the environment and forest minister.
She was chairman of the special parliamentary committee on the 15th amendment to the constitution that repealed the election-time caretaker government system.