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Women writers resolve to fight gender bias

ISLAMABAD, March 6: Women writers have been ignored by men writers and critics over the centuries and it was only now that women’s assertive proactive role in most fields of life has forced men to acknowledge their contribution as poets and writers, said Kishwar Naheed at the all Pakistan Women Writer’s conference arranged by Pakistan Academy of Letters on the occasion of International Women’s Day being observed on Saturday.

The theme of the conference was “women writers in 21st Century”.

“We still need to write on the helplessness and miserable condition of women, in general, and the rural womenfolk, in particular, who have been ignored in every field. The exploitation of women’s rights in our society is being practised even in 21st century”, she said.

“The heinous customs of ‘Vani’ and ‘Karo Kari’ remained unchecked. Women writers of today have crossed many phases of life and their struggle to find an equal place for them in society. The issues that spring from this situation should be expressed in literature”, she said.

Fehmida Riaz complained against bias against women writers as great as Aziz Ahmad and N.M Rashed. Even Bedi had an attitude. She decried policies which placed women at a lower rung of social status than men.

She called for writing a correct history of Urdu literature that gives women their due.

Women of today were not behind men in any walk of life. Today’s women had an increased participation in all activities of life whether it was politics, science, education, literature, art, culture or journalism, said Iftikhar Arif, the PAL chief. In fact, he said they were not behind intellectuals of any country.

Violence and oppression on women was not a new thing. However, the situation had improved with the awareness of women, said Zaitoon Bano, a well-known Pashto writer.

To improve the status of women it was necessary to provide them education as in the NWFP a great majority of women were illiterate and had no awareness of their rights as women.

In spite of restrictions, Punjabi women writers had portrayed the inequality in the society in their work. The major portion of the Punjabi folk poetry was expressed from the women’s perspective. The women writers of 21st century should promote the courage and determination inherited by the female writers of 20th century, said Farkhanda Lodhi.

Dr Sehar Imdad said that the decade of 70s was the decade of awareness among the women in Sindh. They had manifested their identity on the literary front. The Sindhi women had done significant work in the field of research. But she complained that new writers were not emerging in Sindh unlike the middle decades of the last century.

Musarrat Kalanchvi said that as the other Pakistani languages took up the themes of globalisation, terrorism and dictatorship with the advent of the 21st Century, the Saraiki literature too, in particular the Saraiki poetry echoed the same themes. But collectively there was no major change in Saraiki literature.

Zeenat Sana said that the Balochi women manifested the sanctity of women’s chastity along with the feminist truth and awareness in the romantic tales. In the Balochi society the women were the embodiment of their culture.

The conference consisted of two sessions. The first session was presided over by Kishwar Naheed whereas Fehmida Riaz and Zaitoon Bano were the chief guests. Iftikhar Arif, Chairman Pakistan Academy of Letters, Farkhanda Lodhi, Dr Sehar Imdad, Musarrat Kalanchvi, Dr Salma Shaheen and Zeenat Sana presented their research articles on the theme with regard to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Saraiki literature.

The second session comprised a Mushaira presided over by Zehra Nigah. Farkhanda Lodhi, Dr Saeeda Asadullah, Vice- Chancellor Fatima Jinnah Women University and Shabnam Shakil were the chief guests.
Source: Dawn