First Female Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Hijri 1364–Present (AH); Common Era 1945–Present (CE)
Khaleda Zia, the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh, governed the country from 1991-1996 and again from 2001-2006. She currently leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). In 1960, she married Ziaur Rahman, who at that time was a captain in the Pakistani army. In 1971, he declared the independence of Bangladesh and became president six years later. Rahman established the BNP in order to move away from military rule. It was after Ziaur’s assassination in 1981 that Khaleda began her political career. In 1984, the BNP elected her chairman of the party. She spent the next seven years fighting against the military government of General Hossain Mohammad Ershad. She endured political harassment and was arrested on multiple occasions. Under her leadership, the BNP – although the political opposition party – did not compromise its principles for the sake of a political alliance with the ruling military government. Ershad resigned in 1990, and the BNP won the election a year later. In 1991, Khaleda Zia became Prime Minister after securing a majority of votes from Parliament. During her first term, Zia worked on education, gender, and environmental issues. She has been credited with instituting compulsory primary education and free education for girls up to grade 10. Although the BNP lost to Sheikh Hassina’s Awami League in the 1996 elections, it garnered enough votes to become the largest of the opposition parties. During this time, the BNP created alliances with various other political parties. This alliance was large enough to win a majority of the votes in the 2001 elections. For the second time, Khaleda Zia was installed as Prime Minister. In 2006, she was ranked #33 in Forbes list of the 100 Most Powerful Women. In 2006, her term as Prime Minister expired. She again ran for political office in the 2008 elections but lost to Sheikh Hassina’s Awami League.