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‘Women empowerment should be reality, not a concept’

A little chitchat with WIL President and Visual Artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema

A prolific visual artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema has a diversified professional career. She is not only a renowned visual artist and performer but also an influential leader in corporate sector. With her 25 years of professional journey in art, she turned her art into a movement of women empowerment through creation of a unique platform WIL (Women in Leadership) in 2014. Under her guidance and leadership WIL has evolved into an impactful platform providing inspiration and guidance to thousands of professional females and university students.

This iconic figure, Preema has an MFA (2000) in Drawing & Painting from the Institute of Fine Arts from University of Dhaka.

Her 22nd solo art exhibition titled ‘Preema Donna’ was held at Bangladesh National Museum in February 2020. Preema talked to Fintech team during the exhibition and shared her perspective about arts, women leadership and empowerment.

Here is the excerpt.

How did you start your career? Did you ever think you would be a visual artist when you were child?

It’s a prolonged story to say but I think being an artist one may not plan to be so. It’s actually a process. I started my career, if I say professionally, back in 25 years as an artist. But for visual artist, I must say, it’s a process oriented situation. So I started with traditional painting like water color, oil – one kind of painting because academically when I went to Fine Arts being an artist, they provided me a guideline of being artistic expression. Then slowly, I went to global platforms and started my global journey when I was student. And I understood the notion of the future contemporary art world and that actually turns me to be a visual artist. In fact visual artist is one who deals with any sort of media using the visual interpretation to express the context and ideas for that matter.

You are also a president of Women in Leadership (WIL) besides an artist. In creative sectors, what are the challenges a woman faces? Did you face any hardship being visual artist?     

Where not women are facing challenges? They are facing it in every sector. We always talk about women empowerment but where it is? It is just a myth that women are empowered but if you see the statistics or other sources, there’s no women participation. True that process development is there, women are coming on board, taking the leadership in different sectors but in a holistic overall approach we are not there to rally empower women or women are not empowered or not independent. Empowering happens when you become independent. If you see the demography that how many women are independent, not enough you may find. From that respect, there’s still a long way to go to ensure women empowerment especially in our country.

Photo: Courtesy

Besides being visual artist, you are also a consultant for web, graphic and digital art for local and multinational corporate houses for last 14 years. What are the necessary things for digital marketing policy in business?

Well, now it is high time we took systematic shifts for which we have to be ready about. Digital enforcement can actually create a movement in our society because everything is being digitalized. We really don’t know where we are heading as digital era has taken this revolutionary shift. So it’s important for us to become align with digital shipments that are taking place. As a visual artist, I think, we have to take the privilege of digital media since it is the fastest and growing media and also a media for tomorrow. It is important that we have to be collaborative to go with this media, create ‘dots’ and we connect the ‘dots’ to use this media as a tool for really being universal.

Tell us bit about Women in Leadership. WIL awards female leaders from different sectors every year. What is the purpose behind this step?

I am a 360 degree person and I believe in multi dimension. Without a holistic multidimensional approach it is very difficult to comprehend our journey. I started WIL platform in 2014 inspired and shaped by my art and art expression. Different aspects of women issues have influenced my artistic expression always and it has inspired me to launch the platform which became a physical format to empower women. Inspiring Women Award is designed to identify and recognize females who have the potential to be in leadership position in the future. The recognition which is given to high potential women in different sectors along with mentoring and encouragement is aimed to boost them to move to the next level

Since you are talking about leadership, so what is leadership to you? How Bangladeshi women can take leadership in hand in case of business and other social work?

Leadership is critical for every sector including Art. Without right leadership one cannot bring fundamental changes. Leadership lies at the heart of any revolution; political social or economic transformation. I strongly feel that one needs to look at broader women empowerment from leadership lens. Leadership can be defined from the dimension of realizing ones potential. Most of the females lead their lives much below to what they can be. Without having that conviction a female cannot reach her destiny. Through embracing leadership approach Bangladeshi women can bring massive changes both in their personal and societal space.

The number of women professionals or entrepreneurs is still scanty in our country. Why women are not coming to job sector or business in Bangladesh? What do you think?

We live in a blame culture. Where our natural instinct is blaming others for any problem that we encounter or face? If you try to explore the issue of lack of women professional or entrepreneur we tend to blame someone for it. Women blame society, society blames women, even women blame women and so do men. I feel in order to break the status quo the central role needs to be played by women themselves. They first need to realize that their destiny, their future all depend on themselves and that is only possible when they begin to pursue financial independence. They need to own their journey and have self belief on their abilities. The state needs to ensure fundamental human rights for women. We need to ensure visibility of women and their decisive presence from family environment to corporate and to policy level. Each key stakeholder has an equally important role to play here. Women themselves need to realize their possibilities in their preferred sector and pursue that , organization need to realize the importance of gender diversity from business point and pursue that goal and finally society needs to realize that it should be at our core to  create a gender neutral and inclusive society. While we have strong female presence in top political space, but rise of female in most sectors is still highly limited. And women need to lead this transformation – by pushing the barrier, pushing the law, and driving the needed changes.

If you were to pick one specific goal toward women empowerment in the social and professional sphere, what would you pick?    

We need to focus on the developing the right policy, around women education, their rights, their safety and ensuring that the policies are executed. If we want to achieve the bigger goal of women empowerment and leadership – women need to come out of the box and take charge of their own journey through pursuing creativity, and diversity.

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