Begum Khaleda Zia was born on 15 August 1945, the third of five children. She was educated at Dinajpur Government School and Surendranath Women's College. In August 1960, when she was 15, she married Zia-ur Rahman, an officer in the Pakistan army and founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); he helped lead Bangladesh to independence in 1971 and became president of Bangladesh in 1977.
Begum Khaleda Zia did not enter political life until after the assassination of her husband in May 1981. At that time she assumed leadership of the BNP and for the next 20 years was involved in the government, either in leadership or opposition. She has also been a global leader in the area of education for women of third world nations. Khaleda Zia is a Muslim and has two sons.