Women across South Asia and the Middle East are getting their own literature festival to highlight the role they have played in developing the written word.

The Women in Literature Festival 2021 is being held virtually from March 30 to April 1.

Ananke, the development platform behind the festival, has teamed up with Pakistani organisations such as Zuka Books, Ala Books and Authors, Authors Alliance Pakistan, The Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, The Desi Collective and The Aleph Review and a host of local women writers for the project.

According to a press release, Ananke seeks to highlight the critical role women have played in Pakistan’s history and the imperative part they are playing in literature’s present revival.

There are a number of sessions, panels and talks scheduled for the festival, including a conversation between Sheela Reddy, author of Mr and Mrs Jinnah, and Moni Mohsin. Baela Raza Jamil, founder of the children’s literature festival and Angela Joy, author of Black Is A Rainbow Colour will also discuss gender stereotyping in children's literature.

Registration for the event closes on March 28 and it will also be live-streamed on Facebook.

“Ananke has stepped in to fill the vacuum for women, especially women of colour, who feel under-represented and who face roadblocks on their journey to publishing," said author Faiqa Mansab.

Panellists including Pakistani women based both in the country and abroad, including Afshan Shafi, Dr Amina Yaqin, Aisha Hamid, Ayesha Raees, Aysha Baqir, Dr. Nukhbah Langah, Fatima Ijaz, Laaleen Sukhera, Mahnaz Rahman, Mina Malik-Hussain, Mehvash Amin, Moni Mohsin, Naima Rashid, Taiba Abbas, Rabbania Shirjeel, Rashin Choudhary, Saadia Gardezi, Shazaf Fatima, Soniah Kamal, Wajiha Hyder, Zahra Hameed and Zarminae Ansari among many others.

“At Ananke, we have always strived to create impactful digital spaces for women to hold inclusive conversations about an array of topics and issues," said Ananke’s founder and executive editor, Sabin Muzaffar. "We keep hearing statements that there aren’t enough women available for public speaking opportunities and we have continuously proven those claims wrong.

"We keep seeing manels even on subjects of women’s rights and empowerment. While we do think an inclusive conversation is essential to trigger impact, if we do not have proper representation especially on issues centring women, I fear there will never be change in the status quo.”

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