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‘Women Writers Should Be Encouraged To See Beyond Their Gender’

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Women should be encouraged to see beyond their gender and trained to view themselves as professionals to be able to bridge the gaps that may persist in their writings, in their content or in them facing their challenges in practice, said Nasira Zuberi who is an Urdu poet and media person.

Given the many avenues that have opened up in modern day and age, it is not possible any more to suppress a voice that dares to take a stand, she added.

She was speaking at the third session of ‘Rethinking Writing’ organised by the Lahore Education and Research Network (LEARN) in association with Olomopolo media in Lahore.

The session aimed at focusing on the particular challenges faced by women as writers and why it is important for them to continue writing and reclaim their space nevertheless. The driving question behind the session was whether writing was a means to counteract erasure and if so, how can women continue contributing their voice to their issues for their cause?

Nida Usman Chaudhary, founder of LEARN, paid tributes to the legendary Toni Morrison, who passed away on August 5, for her contribution to the community of African-American writers and in giving them a voice of their own.

About her focus on the Mughal women in columns, Sana Munir said, “My curiosity in digging out the stories of Mughal women arose when I visited the old historical buildings in and around Punjab. There was hardly any story being told about Mughal women and even in the history books their role was reduced to being, at best a ‘love interest’ of the Mughal princes and kings. Clearly, their entire legacy as people, as persons, as humans had been erased or never documented.”

“The women were much more than an eye-candy and so I felt as a woman, as an author it was important to represent them and their true achievements because history had not done justice to them, their contribution and their achievements,” she added.

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Naima Rashid was of the view that Parveen Shakir was always portrayed as a poetess who wrote about love and emotions, whereas the multifaceted layers of her work in other streams and aspects was also a victim of the similar kind of erasure that Sana talked about.

Sana Asif Dar, a journalist, expressed her concerns over the gender stereotypes that persists in her field and in the challenges she faces at work. She also highlighted that very few women were working at decision-making levels in her profession and that affects the kind of stories that get picked for broadcast or publication.

Sabahat Zakariya said, “Our neighbours have increasingly experimented with powerful scripts, with powerful female characters and have explored digital platforms as well as the more traditional cinema and TV channels to bring progressive content, even path-breaking content.”

Shabana Mahfooz highlighted other challenges that women writers face in Pakistan by virtue of a patriarchal setup of the society. She that it is more challenging for the woman to be able to write when she wants to and how she does because she is expected to be available for her domestic responsibilities prior to her taking the time out for any ‘interests’ she may have including writing.

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Naya Daur