In her 1905 story Sultana’s Dream, Bengali educator-activist Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain imagined a world in which men were in purdah while women were free to govern society, which they turned into a utopia. Over the past hundred years, Hossain’s revolutionary example of a woman empowering herself through the written word has been echoed by countless South Asians resident in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Trinidad, East Africa, Canada and many other countries.
From veteran author Anita Desai, who galvanized Indian writing in English to make it the mammoth institution that it is, to first-time Bangladeshi novelist Tahmima Anam, whose crucial, compelling interpretation of her nation’s history included one of the most nuanced female characters in contemporary literature, women with subcontinental origins have a created a body of work that is not only beautiful but sophisticated and iconoclastic.
Womenswriting.com is a forum that pays tribute to this achievement. The second generation of a project begun by the British Council four years ago, this website provides an extensive database of profiles on novelists, poets, academics, journalists, lyricists, playwrights, illustrators, translators, editors, publishers and critics—the household names as well as lesser known voices. Our Editor’s Blog keeps you updated on events and news related to the South Asian women’s literary scene—launches, competitions, festivals, fellowships—while our Reading Room gives you a space to weigh in on the books you love or hate.
So browse our pages and feel free to get in touch if you have any suggestions about writers we should profile, news we might have missed. As Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain put it, “You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.”
Zubaan is an independent feminist publishing house based in New Delhi, India, with a strong academic and general list. It was set up by Urvashi Butalia as an imprint of the well known feminist house Kali for Women, and carries forward Kali's tradition of publishing world quality books to high editorial and production standards. “Zubaan” means tongue, voice, language, speech in Hindustani. Zubaan is a non-profit publisher, working in the areas of the humanities, social sciences, as well as in fiction, general non-fiction, and books for young adults that celebrate difference, diversity and equality, especially for and about the children of India and South Asia under its imprint Young Zubaan.
Apart from our publishing programme, we engage in a number of projects on gender - consultancies, research, organising workshops, seminars and conferences. A recent project is Poster Women, which is a visual mapping of the women's movement in India since the mid-seventies. It is a collection of posters that were documented, archived and curated as a travelling exhibition. Till date, it has travelled within India to Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Baroda. Internationally, it has been to Bonn, Berlin, Frankfurt and Zurich. Future cities include Chandigarh, Guwahati, Shillong, Dimapur, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Udaipur, Patna, Pune, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, Jaipur and Bhopal.
This website was originally conceptualised and maintained by the British Council, New Delhi. It was sparked off by an immensely successful South Asian Writers Conference held at Sanskriti Anandgram Pratishthan, 2003. This seminar was co-sponsored by UKSAWWC and so this conference brought together women writers from UK, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. The aim of this website under the British Council's management was "to create a network for women writers and to promote internationally voices that are less frequently heard." The site's previous editors were Mini Krishnan, Subashree Krishnaswamy, Lekshmy Rajeev and Jaya Bhattacharji.
Zubaan inherited the site from the British Council, New Delhi in early 2007.