Economist and social activist Salma Khan led an extraordinary life practicing her faith in utter diligence and living a life of submission to the will of Allah. She was resolute and firm, unshakeable and courageous, always steadfast in her views. Salma Khan stood her ground backed by fact-based research and her views were never based on assumptions.
To most of us she represented the feminist voice that reverberated strength, identity and hope for most women. The one who listened to us and shared her thoughts freely. She made us feel comfortable and mindful helping us to be the best person we could possibly become. Her sense of acceptance was unique.
To me she was Salma Khala, the one who was a powerhouse of brilliance yet quite the person who was socially successful at networking, charismatic, and personally dynamic.
Khala presented herself with power, dressing beautifully attired in silks and fineries. She looked dressed to kill for most occasions like it was natural and effortless. Saree was her preferred choice, never used a pin and walked with grace and elegance. She wore woven silks, traditional heirlooms, cottons of all shades and colours. She represented Bangladesh proudly and globally in the most beautiful way possible.
The endless teas and dinner parties we attended at her place throughout our growing up years left us ultimately with new social skills. Her house buzzed with artists, poets, writers, professors, journalists, engineers, scientists, businessmen and Rotarians. Never a dull moment with political debates and musical soirées and long purposeful conversations. Salma Khala penned many books on gender and social development. Her most impactful pieces were written for daily newspaper Prothom Alo. She had a spontaneous clarity of mind that was reflected in the many talk shows on television. Her views were sensational for the audience in Bangladesh as she never hesitated to speak about gender parity and the deserving 50 percent of the women who play an unequivocal role in all our sectors. She really would have liked to see more women in policy making roles.
She was the matriarch we can hope to become one day. She tendered such a beautiful balance between her work and home ethics. She would remind us to work with precision of mind, planning home management with the same skill as one would at work. She was blessed with the best partner and husband Habibullah Khan, loving daughter Humana and son in law Amin. She was especially a proud Grandmother to Anan and Ashalina.
My mother Shilu Abed and Salma Khan were not just friends but sisters. Their camaraderie and mutual respect with such loving care is rare to find these days. They celebrated many occasions together, especially their birthdays. I was blessed to inherit the void created by my mother's demise 25 years ago and continued to build on our relationship. I will miss you Khala beyond words. Your life will be celebrated by all of us whose lives you have enlightened with your words of wisdom. We shall continue to progress along the path to self discovery, our awakening and realisation pushing us forward in our unfolding journeys. You would ask for nothing less. Rest in eternal peace.
A few of her accomplishments
Salma Khan was the recipient of Fulbright Scholarship, US AID Scholarship, British Council Scholarship and the prestigious Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship of USA. She was head of the Economics Department, Chittagong University, and an additional secretary with the Planning Commission and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. She retired as one of the most senior civil servants of Bangladesh.
To say the least, she distinguished herself as the first Asian chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She was elected chair of CEDAW thrice and held her position for twelve long years.
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