Sheikh Hasina: Leader who overcame all odds to push Bangladesh's success story

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Mar 27, 2021, 10:47 AM IST

File photo of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

Hasina's journey has been a fascinating one as has seen military rule, detention and has lived in exile

Much credit for Bangladesh's incredible rise goes to Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the longest-serving prime minister of the country. 

She is one of the only two women heads of state in Asia. 

Her soft manner and steely determination have often been discussed, but the world knows little about her political journey and her contribution to the growth of Bangladesh.

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Hasina's journey has been a fascinating one as has seen military rule, detention and has lived in exile.

She has even survived assassination attempts.

Her political career began in the late 1960s when she served as her father's political messenger during his numerous stints in jail.

In 1975, she was in West Germany when her father, mother and three brothers were assassinated.

She was left with no one but her sister and the incumbent PM spent the next six years of her life in exile in India.

It was during this self-exile that Hasina was elected as the president of the Awami League.

On her return to Dhaka in 1981, she became a prominent and outspoken advocate for democracy.

In the years that followed, she fought the military generals of Bangladesh and initiated several steps to secure basic human rights for her countrymen. 

In 1996, Hasina became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the first time and in her first stint, she achieved laudable successes in many fields.

The most significant achievements were the 30-year Ganges water-sharing treaty with India, the peace accord on the Chittagong hill tracts, construction of the Bangabandhu Bridge, allowances for distressed women, widows and the disabled and the 'Ashrayan' project aimed at eradicating homelessness.

In 2009, she was re-elected and this time she oversaw the resolution of maritime disputes with Myanmar and India.

Bangladesh's GDP growth surged to 6 per cent and an estimated 50 million Bangladeshis were elevated to the middle-income group.

There was a slump in the poverty level from 38 per cent in 2006 to 24 per cent in 2013.

In 2014, she secured the top office for the third time and the per capita income of Bangladesh rose to  $1,602 with the poverty rate slumping further to 22.4 per cent. 

The forex reserves rose to $32 billion and in 2017, Bangladesh's GDP stood at $250 billion dollars.

In 2019, the annual GDP growth was 8.15 per cent. 

Hasina has been bestowed with several honours, including the Mother Teresa award in 1998 and the Indira Gandhi Peace Award in 2009.

She has also received the Unesco 'Peace Tree' award in 2014 and has featured on 59th place in the 2015 Forbes' list of 100 Most Powerful Women.

In 2018, she received praise for accepting Rohingya refugees.

She is also known for her wit and gentle diplomacy, but like any other leader, she's not been able to escape some controversies.

Some say that under her tenure Bangladesh has witnessed democratic backsliding.

It is an accusation which gets complex, the deeper one tries to dig.