The Pages: Please tell us about your childhood, education, and family.
Zeenat Alam: My name is Zeenat Alam. My birth, education, and growing up all took place in a town in Feni by the name muffasil. From childhood, I had a vested interest in singing, music, sports, and painting. I often spent my free time engaging in them. I sing often even now.
I got married after admission to HSC. After this, I was started attending Siddheswari College. I have two sons and a daughter. I chose to believe that women should not abandon their jobs and individual identities after marriage as I believe it also plays a big role in shaping my children’s view of an equal world and provides me with creative incentive. I have also continued my education because of the same idea. I have further completed numerous interesting courses for fun as I always found learning new things exciting and challenging.
For a long time, I lived out of the country in Saudi Arabia where I learned about their culture and developed an even deeper attachment to my roots being away from home for so long. I cherish my time abroad as it has taught me independence, open-mindedness, and an appreciation for diversity.
Colors have always been a major point of interest for me and I love working with them. Each color represents different feelings and experiences, giving way to art for expression. This feeling has given birth to my desire for pursuing fashion designing.
I believe that I have inherited these qualities from my mother as she was very good at arts and crafts. My father, Dr. A.K.M Ishaq Chowdhury was the secretary of Feni student league and the founder of a subdivision of Awami League. He passed away in the year 1975, yet still, he is known to all in Feni junior or senior. He has remained a respectable person in Feni. My father is my pride. Although I was then tender aged and remember only a few moments we spent together I cherish them and hold them close to my heart. I would say my father is my pride and my mother my strength and together they give me my fundamental values or who I am and where I belong.
The Pages: The families of Noakhali region are generally very conservative. In my married life even after family occupation, I stopped to think should I come to leave my job? Should I give up my inherent artistic qualities?
Zeenat Alam: However, I did not stop. When my children grew up then I started again pursuing my own intentions. With the blessings of Allah soon I started my own flagship store. I have been working as a designer for the last twelve years. My dream “Zeenat” boutique was then started. Because of the pressure of the customers, I had to start a showroom at Banani. I successfully run the showroom for continuous ten years. At present, I am a bit sick. My physical boundaries have stopped me from being able to make the excursion from home to work every day but still, I am taking all the orders from my residence. Nowadays I am passing busy time with my grandchildren at a new and exciting stage of life as a grandmother. In terms of things, I still want to do I would say I desired to do some social development work in Bangladesh. I want to stand by the helpless. As such I am associated now associated with Zonta, Wings, EW, a homegrown approach to the
The Pages: You are a housewife. What is the reason behind becoming a woman entrepreneur in spite of such a business?
Zeenat Alam: the Main reason behind this is my father. My father is known to all in Feni. So I also wanted to be known for my good work as well. Since I was good in fashion designing I started this as my profession.
At present female entrepreneurs are increasing and I completely support their passion and determination for establishing their own identities and making a difference. I love that there is competition in prevailing Boutique house businesses! But I believe I’m putting up a good fight and hold my own place in the market, I believe it has made me even better.
The Pages: What is your plan for “Zeenat”?
Zeenat Alam: I wish to keep doing great work and make waves in the forefront of Bangladeshi fashion but doing any kind of good work we have to fight harder so I did. My showroom was inaugurated by famous designer Bibi Russell. She was surprised to see my designs and knowing that all of our products are domestic products. She also encouraged me. I had 35 staffers and I felt good thinking that I could manage a source of income for them.
Initially only the affluent were my customers. Then I started making clothes for middle and low-income groups as I believe everyone has a right to fashion.
Having said that I want to focus on a different chapter of life now which comes in the name of social work which in the past year has become my main objective. I have chosen to distribute my profits to the underdeveloped in order to support impoverished families.
The Pages: You are involved with many organizations like Zonta, Wings, EW, She4she, and others. What is the reason behind this?
Zeenat Alam: It is my sincere intention to do something good. My main objective at its core has always been to do something good for others. For this reason, I am associated with these organizations.
The Pages: You are doing so many works simultaneously, for which are you facing any problem in personal life?
Zeenat Alam: No, there is no problem. Because I am giving time to my family properly. My factory is at Mirpur. I go there one/two days every week. I did not go out of my residence frequently since my employees are very reliable. They come to my residence to do the works.
The Pages: Who is helping you from the beginning up to the end?
Zeenath Alam: Before my marriage, my mother helped me and after marriage my husband.
The Pages: For the young generation do you have anything to say?
Zeenath Alam: For the young generation, I have one saying, for doing well although cliched: work hard and persevere to make sure your dreams become reality. At present, the market is very competitive. So it’s important to stay focused and goal-oriented but also don’t forget to have fun and live life to the fullest as well as live up to other responsibilities such as family.
The Pages: What is your role in Baridhara society?
Zeenath Alam: I have been an inhabitant of Baridhara Since 1999. I am associated with Baridhara Society for the last 18 years. I continuously worked for 10 years for the society. At the outset, I was the convener of Welfare Subcommittee. Since I am cultural minded so it was my responsibility to organize all the programs of Baridhara. For some family reasons, I have refrained from those social activities for 4 years. I joined the Committee through the election. I was the convener of the Cultural sub Committee for 2 years. Now we have a Committee which works for different national days and different Islamic events. I am also the convener of that Committee. By organizing these events I hope to make my community a better place.
I can only hope that my initiatives to make my community a better place will be fruitful and that I can succeed in my goal to make a real change in society whether through women entrepreneurship or traditional service-based charity.