Commonwealth Writers Conversation – The Untold Story: Women’s Lives In Bangladesh
Panel left to right: Faustina Pereira, Shuchi Karim, Munize Manzur, Firdous Azim and Razia Iqbal
Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 16 November
There was standing room only in the hall at the Bangla Academy for The Commonwealth Writers Conversation. Focussed around the reality of women’s lives in Bangladesh, the event generated a lively discussion in front of an appreciative audience. Moderated by BBC journalist and presenter Razia Iqbal, the panel included Human Rights lawyer Faustina Pereira, feminist activist and writer Firdous Azim, feminist and academic Shuchi Karim and the writer and teacher Munize Manzur.
Conversation flowed between the panellists who felt that the discussion was very timely. Issues of sex education, women’s bodies, male attitudes and other topics often not discussed in public were explored. They also maintained that creative expression, such as fiction, could help women speak out on such issues. Audience members felt that the event was setting up a dialogue that is very much needed in the city and which needs to enter the public discourse.
Currently Razia Iqbal works as a Special correspondent and Presenter for BBC news; she is one of the main presenters of BBC World Service’s flagship current affairs programme, Newshour. She presents Talking Books for BBC World TV and the BBC news channel, a half hour interview programme with leading writers. She also presents documentaries and interview programmes on BBC Radio 4 and World Service. Before that she was the BBC Arts correspondent for seven years.
Munize Manzur lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh but refuses to be defined by set boundaries. She is a teacher by day, a writer by night and a mother on 24-hour call duty. Munize received her B.A. in English Literature from Bryn Mawr College and M.A in Communications from Temple University, both in Pennsylvania, USA.
Munize’s short stories have been printed in national newspapers (Daily Star, New Age) and international literary journals (La Bouche, The Del Sol Review, Writers Hub). She has also been published in different anthologies – From the Delta: University Press Ltd, 2005. Deshi Dreams: Wayward Bride Press, 2007. A Rainbow Feast: Marshall Cavendish, 2010. Journeys: Sampad, 2010 and 2012. What The Ink?: Writers Block, 2011. Sticks and Stones: 2012. Lifelines: Zubaan, 2012. One of her dialogues was used as a performance piece in “The Further Soil” Production which went on tour in United Kingdom during Fall, 2010. She has been a columnist in the Daily Star Weekend Magazine (Soapbox); Daily Star Lifestyle (Dhaka Bites); and ICE Today Magazine (Sugar ‘n Spice).
Firdous Azim is chair of the Department of English and Humanities at BRAC University, and as a contributing editor for Feminist Review, she has edited a special issue entitled South Asian Feminisms: Negotiating New Terrains and was the editor of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Journal entitled Complex Terrains: Islam, culture and women in Asia. She has published both in the fields of post-colonialism and literature and feminist issues. Her books include The Colonial Rise of the Novel (Routledge, 1993) and Infinite Variety: Women in Society and Literature (University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1996). She is also a member of Naripokkho, a woman’s activist group in Bangladesh.
Shuchi Karim is a feminist from Bangladesh. She did her PhD from the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands, on ‘LIVING SEXUALITIES: Negotiating Heteronormativity in Middle Class Bangladesh’. Dr. Karim’s academic specialisations include Gender and Development Studies, Sexuality Studies, and English Literature. She works both in development field as well as in academia. She started her early career in 1996 with BRAC Education Program, Bangladesh and gradually shifted to academic and research oriented work. Currently Dr. Karim works as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Educational Development (IED), BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her research interest includes gender, sexualities, education, and disability issues. Besides her professional work, she is also involved in activism related to Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights both at regional and global South level. Ms. Karim has had publications in both national and international books and journals.
Dr Faustina Pereira
Dr Faustina Pereira is a lawyer, a human rights activist and author. She is the director of the Human Rights and Legal Aid Services programme, BRAC, Bangladesh, and has a doctorate in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame, USA. Prior to joining BRAC, she was the director of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). In 2006 she was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.