November 5th, 2021 (Sharjah, UAE): An insightful discussion on ‘The Presence of Women in Literary Achievement’ that addressed issues of representation and recognition attracted large numbers of women and girls at the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair that continues its run at Expo Centre Sharjah until November 13.
Members on the panel included Dr. Badriya Al Bishr, award-winning Saudi novelist and author; Asma Al Zarooni, Emirati writer and Vice President of the Board of the Emirates Writers Union; and Rabina Khan, Bangladeshi-born British writer and politician.
Discussing the challenges of establishing her career as a female writer in Saudi Arabia and encouraging women to step up to the intellectual spotlight, Dr. Badriya Al Bishr said: “Women and men both deserve to be in the spotlight. Earlier, women attempted to become just like men. But today, we live in a world where a woman can celebrate her uniqueness. We have to express our uniqueness as women instead of trying to be just like men.”
Citing the achievements of Bodour Al Qasimi, the first woman in the Arab world to be appointed President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), Dr, Al Bishr said: “The presence of such a role model is an indication of the ability of a woman, of her capacity and intellect in the publishing domain. Bodour Al Qasimi encourages women to ‘wake up’ and she plants the seed of hope in us.”
Rabina Khan, author of My Hair is Pink Under This Veil, called for equal economic and political conditions for women of colour everywhere. The author also rued the fact that only 3.5% of the books from the MENA region are published and translated in the UK.
“Women are the pioneers in writing. They are the ones who began singing lullabies and telling tales to their children,” said Asma Al Zarooni, author of Whispering of the Beaches and The Late Body. Highlighting various ongoing Emirati initiatives that are encouraging young people to write, Al Zarooni added: “The UAE is a country with a rich cultural heritage; we believe in culture and cultural diversity.”