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Much more than women’s issues

Karachi: It’s not just women’s issues and the yearning to highlight them that influence women’s writings; it’s the overall socio-political environment in a country that often shapes what they write.

When asked, during a discussion on women writers who write about women, whether her writings are affected by the ongoing political conflict, Maniza Naqvi, novelist and writer, said: “My work is greatly shaped by General Zia ul Haq’s repressive regime.” One could not help it, she said.

It has become a joke among her friends that after writing three books, she has dedicated none to the dictator.

In conversation with Marilyn Wyatt, wife of US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, the prolific panel, including Naqvi, Bina Shah and Nafisa Haji, discussed women writing about women, and how to avoid the stereotypes.

The session, which was short and revolved around the writers’ lives and questions about how they became writers, was candid in parts yet offered nothing new in general.

Answering a question, Bina Shah, writer and journalist, said her work was solely for women and “I am not ashamed being a feminist”.

Nafisa Haji, a novelist raised in Los Angeles, spoke about countering the stereotype of “stressed Muslim women”.

She said whenever she was asked a question about how her writing helped women back home, she had the same answer: The women in Pakistan are a bunch of hardworking women who have done the kind of work she cannot even imagine to do.” Haji said her writings were focused on individuals, and that she was more a “humanist” than a feminist.

When Wyatt asked them how optimistic they were about the future of women in Pakistan, Bina Shah replied that they would continue highlighting the issues pertaining women, “We won’t shut up easily.”

Source: The News