Chartered accountancy profession in Bangladesh has reached a milestone recently after the number of CA-qualified women crossed 100.
The seed for the feat was planted in 1985 when Suraiya Zannath started working with SF Ahmed & Co. in Dhaka after graduating from Chittagong Commerce College.
She knew very little about the profession that is completely dominated by men. But her uncle, who was also the principal of the college, served her inspiration.
“I only knew that people who study commerce end up in CA. My family and SF Ahmed & Co. helped me a lot.”
The firm faced difficulties as it had to arrange a separate room for Zannath as well as took troubles in deciding where she would be sent to carry out audits.
The trouble for her did not end there: during the course she got married and became a mother. But her efforts paid off finally. When she passed CA in 1989 she became Bangladesh's first female qualified chartered accountant.
“It feels good when people say that I am their inspiration,” she told The Daily Star yesterday.
Zannath is now the lead financial management specialist for governance global practice at the World Bank.
Since 1989, some 109 women have earned the CA qualification and 50 more are in pipeline, said Parveen Mahmud, chairman of women in leadership committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh.
The professional body yesterday organised a programme at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka to celebrate the feat. It also launched the CA Women's Forum.
The forum will work both at policy and implementation levels to support present and future women members and other women stakeholders, said Mahmud, also the second qualified female CA in Bangladesh.
The ICAB recognised the female advancement in CA profession as well as the contribution of women, who are the role models in society and showed the path to women after them to overcome barriers.
The honourees include: Suraiya Zannath; Parveen Mahmud, first female president of the ICAB; Akhtar Sanjida Kasem, first female practitioner; Shama Rukh Alam, first corporate chief financial officer; Rahman Rahman Huq, which churned out the highest number of female CAs; and Md Jainul Abedin, who represented the family with the highest number of CAs.
The ICAB honoured Rokia Afzal Rahman, a noted women entrepreneur; Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education; Angela Gomes, founding executive director of non-governmental organisation Banchte Shekha; Ferdousi Rahman, a noted singer; Sufia Ahmed, first female national professor; Sayeeda Khanam, a photo-journalist; Zakia A Chowdhury, first female secretary; Maleka Khan, first female director of the FBCCI; and Ayesha Khanam, president of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of Brac, handed over crests to the women.
Speaking on the occasion, Adeeb Hossain Khan, president of the ICAB, said the core objectives of the forum are to attract more women into the profession and address their specific needs within the profession.
“We also want this forum to act as a bridge between our profession and women in business and development so that chartered accountants can play a catalytic role in taking them to greater heights,” he said in a statement.
Gowher Rizvi, foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, and Suraiya Begum, senior secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, also attended the ceremony.