Geeteara Safiya has been a ground-breaking pioneer as a woman in Bangladesh
In the third episode of IPDC Finance Limited’s webinar series titled “IPDC Ogroj,” Geeteara Safiyara Choudhury - one of the most revered women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh – was the guest.
Geeteara Safiya has been a ground-breaking pioneer as a woman in Bangladesh. From starting her own advertising firm Adcomm Ltd to becoming the first female member of Dhaka Club and subsequently becoming the club president three times, she has been an inspiration and role model for countless people, regardless of age and gender, something that the Facebook audience noted en masse during the webinar.
Her accomplishments in the field of advertising has set high standards and won her innumerable acclaim and fanfare.
In conversation with Ogroj host Anis A Khan, she began recalling from her childhood, growing up in a family that revered knowledge and respected all race, religions, and creed. Geeteara expressed her pride in her family for the values they ingrained in her.
Her parents, voracious readers, nurtured and sustained a healthy passion for reading. Her grandparents provided sage advice.
In one anecdote, she reminisced about debating in her college years at Holy Cross Girls School & College. She was in the debate finals against the indomitable Notre Dame College team. During her turn, the electricity went out, and the boys on the Notre Dame team jeered at the girls from Holy Cross and cheered assuming victory was theirs uncontested.
Little did they know that Geeteara's parents had brought her up to speak clearly, coherently, with force, and never to falter or speak meekly; hence the secret behind her resounding, booming voice. In keeping with their upbringing, she argued with a forceful fervor, dismissing the need for a microphone and winning the championship against the . Her victory prompted the perpetually stern Catholic nuns to temporarily drop their firmness and embrace her with glee and pride.
"Can you believe it? A Catholic sister was here hugging me!"
After Geeteara had finished college and was preparing to apply for her honour's degree, her father suggested she pursue English but she had her heart set on Economics. One day, her grandfather, the illustrious linguist Dr Muhammad Shahidullah, who doted and fawned upon Geeteara - the eldest of his grandchildren - visited them. Geeteara's mother Jahanara Begum had always adored her scholarly father-in-law. But on this occasion, she restrained herself behind a slightly ajar door as Geeteara welcomed him home.
"He asked me what I wanted to do after college. I told him I wanted to study Economics but my father was pressing for English. He opened a leather briefcase that was constantly on his person, and pulled out an admission form for Dhaka University. My mother had been afraid that he would suggest marriage and dismiss higher education for a girl, hence her cloistered position. She had been crying from behind the door because she had high hopes for me to obtain honour's and master's degrees and make a name for myself. By the time my grandfather had finished speaking, my mother came running, her adoring daughter-in-law persona restored and her tears glistening with joy," Geeteara recanted.
Geeteara revealed little about the romance that sparked the 51-year-long marriage to her husband Nazim Kamran Choudhury, aside from the fact that they met during French classes at Dhaka University’s Institute of Modern Languages.
Her professional career began in the 60s, where she had to work twice as much as a man to prove her competency. In one instance when she had been five minutes late to work for her ailing son, her supervisor reprimanded and asked to choose between being a mother and a professional.
In a masterful display of resilience and entrepreneurial flair, Geeteara would later go on to start her own advertising firm Adcomm Ltd in 1974, encouraged by her family, friends, and co-workers.
Today, Geeteara remains as youthful and excitable as ever, her taut skin and constant smile belying her 73 years of age. She maintains her garden, nurturing her roses, listens to music by Tagore and Nazrul, and indulges in chocolate.
IPDC Finance Ltd presents Ogroj takes place from 8pm-9pm every first and third Thursday of the month. Guests on previous episodes include Matiul Islam and Prof Rehman Sobhan.