IN CONVERSATION WITH NAZIA ANDALEEB PREEMA

IN CONVERSATION WITH NAZIA ANDALEEB PREEMA

March 25, 2019

Being one of the most dynamic and influential visual artists of Bangladesh, Preema rises as a strong cultural influence. Her artworks have innovative approach, distinct technique and lyrical overtones with unbeatable boldness. Her sumptuous illustrations demonstrate the virtuosity of blending the traditional into contemporary media. Her canvases reveal a personal narrative that can be extended to the depiction of a larger situation to create a context of that time and space. She has galvanized a generation of artists, youth and women with her strong convictions and willingness to risk personal liberties in pursuit of freedom of expression. She believes that art is not mere aesthetics, rather it can be transferred into social movements. Her art turned into a movement for women empowerment when she launched WIL (Women in Leadership) in 2014. She is a role model for every woman who thrives to become empowered. Against all odds, Nazia Andaleeb Preema illustrated her 23 years of career exhibiting her artistic expression all over the world, received awards, grants, acclamations and traveled vastly to gather prodigious experience to inspire through her creative ideas.

Bangladesh Brand Forum: How would you define leadership?
Nazia Andaleeb Preema: Leadership is ‘connecting dots’ and detailing in life whether it’s personal or professional. For instance, in my childhood, I saw my mother who led every nitty-gritty that was needed for my regular life, starting from my pencil-sharpener to my academic result. This has an organic process of developing leadership. Mothers in our Bangladeshi context might not be aware of their leadership skill as they perform such tasks in an instinctive manner without any strategy. But when this process is set up for organizational development with professional/corporate strategies, theories, and terminologies for a purpose-driven impact, we perceive leadership. Mothers, in our society, are mostly multi-taskers, yet they never get defocused. That’s what leadership is. Leadership is inclusive, creative and diverse.

How would you differentiate between leadership and domination?
Leadership is a dominating notion. And dominating notion is nothing negative. When mothers used to scold us, was it domination? Later we might have realized that it was necessary for us to learn our flaws and follies. Our society lacks collaboration to be honest. Therefore, definition, perception, and implementation of leadership are totally in different directions. These have to be connected. Then through ‘connecting dots’, the society will perceive the result of genuine leadership.

Why do you think diversity and creativity are important for leadership? How do these two interconnect?
We may need leadership to inspire us and give us courage especially in volatile times, yet we each have a unique blend of talents and a special dynamic within the diverse community we serve. It is up to us to unlock our creative potential, to evolve and utilize our talents, and it is also up to us to help others to unlock their creative potential in their time of need. The more we open up to our environment, the more we tune in to the interconnected nature of business life, sensing and responding in the most optimal way. Each day challenges us to ‘walk-the-talk’, each day offers us opportunities to learn, grow and evolve.

Leadership of the future is less about the theory of an idealized leadership model and more about the practical ability to navigate a journey of authenticity and inspiration through integrity and conviction. Energizing and equipping oneself and others to make the right choices for the situation at hand.

How can young women develop leadership qualities?
Our society is not a diverse one. It neither understands nor supports diversity. Hence, creativity is very much absent in workplaces. But those individuals or organization who practice diversity is creating a new path of sustainability. Everything starts form home. So a family dynamic should be very diverse. Women should be in decision making positions. Young women need to learn how to identify diversity & creativity, and look up to the leaders in positions of power or influence – who can help them, and reach out strategically for sponsorship and mentorship. Finding those people is a skillset that all women leaders must develop with serious intention. With that support, leadership possibilities open up dramatically.

Tell us about Women in Leadership.
Women in Leadership (WIL) is an initiative which encourages professional women to pursue leadership in their career. WIL is an integrated process. It follows a module/process which connects one to another. It connects BWPN (Bangladesh Women Professional Network), IWA (Inspiring Women Award), Women Leadership Summit and WIL publication. One platform to discuss and share the issue, one is for implementation, another platform to understand leadership and its value, while the publication reflects on the outcome from within our society how it perceives women and the leadership possibilities around this culture. So we definitely keep the room for improvising its core module, but there is this very strategic process where I think empowerment and leadership for women can be addressed.

WIL recognizes and awards female leaders from various sectors and categories every year. What is the motto behind this step?
Recognizing one’s contribution is itself inspiring. It’s important to set examples to encourage others. Hence, an award is also a demonstration that the effort has been seen and therefore, it is impactful enough to make a change through breaking up the stereotypical mindset. It’s important to truly measure women’s potential in the workplace in order to understand and value their ability. Inspiring Women Award (IWA) is not just another award; it’s an award of processing leadership, dignity – it’s an award for being really a woman who is inspiring society through her leadership contribution. Through IWA, women’s stories have been shared to larger community to create a diverse inspirational environment.

What would be your message for the next generation of leaders?
I really can’t tell much about generation! World is moving very fast as we are living in a time where knowledge and creativity is so available. It’s the time of grabbing opportunity to be multi-tasking, diverse and creative. Leadership is not a glorifying achievement anymore, it’s a day to day practice to make life (personal or professional) better and smarter every day. Message, feedback, advice – these will soon become pre-historic notions. Women should be aware of their own selves to co-exist. To live a stronger and independent life, it’s a necessity. Everyone has to do it. If women want to be seriously professional, they need to go out of the box. They must practice inclusivity, creativity and diversity. They need to understand the urgency of education, knowledge and creativity for empowerment through economic independence. They have to go out there and look for engaging them and be visible. They have to raise voice, have opinion and realize their existence. Society needs to value women’s right and there comes empowerment of women leaders. It should not be just a concept, it should be reality.

Do you support 8th March International Women’s Day?
I am reluctant about the 8th March Women’s Day. It’s a capitalist thought and philosophy (which definitely worked for giving women an extra mileage). There are lots of debate around celebrating a day as women’s day. Debate sometimes could make the real issue delusional. So we should create our own day, own story and own philosophy. Thank you.

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