Apart from the celebrated guest list that features some of the most successful and powerful women of the generation, a range of talks have also been organised that focus duly on the women writers and writing as a tool of empowerment.
A series of panel talks aptly titled as ‘Women Interrupted’ explored the nuances of the literature created by women. A session titled ‘Words without Borders’ on January 17 will feature women leaders such as Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house and Mauritius born author Ananda Devi.
Another power packed session on January 18 looked into the women writers from the Islamic world. Aptly titled as the ‘Behind the veil’ it host a panel of feminist writers such as journalist Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, Fariba Hachtroudi and Sahar Delijani, daughter of a political activist. Delijani was born in Tehran’s Evin Prison in 1983 which inspired her later book ‘Children of the Jacaranda Tree’ that has been translated into 27 languages.
Ladies from India
Apart from these, the festival boasts of an illustrious line up of female writers who have accomplished so much despite social hurdles. Popular and award winning authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Samantha Shannon, will hold audiences along side women stars like Indian Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom as well as India's first ever MBA graduated women sarpanch Chhavi Rajawat from Soda, Rajasthan, in the hopes to inspire the many young girls of this nation who tread too softly.
Other speakers like Vartika Nanda, media trainer and gender communicator, have devoted their lives to creating awareness towards the issues of crime against women through media and literature. Another speaker, a certain emmy-winning journalist Ruchira Gupta, is also the founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide and has spent over three decades in the efforts of ending human trafficking.
Women of the world
The global women will be represented at the festival through the talks and discussions of speakers such as Chinese author Xiaolu Guo, Sri Lankan Ru Freeman, award-winning African writer Maaza Mengiste, Bhutanese politician and diplomat Lily Wangchhuk, best-selling Israeli writer Zeruya Shalev and renowned American feminist writer Gloria Steinem.
For instance, at her session on day one of the festival, Steinem, used powerful rhetoric to connect with an eager crowd on the subject of women liberation, “Patriarchy is all about control over reproduction. If women didn't have wombs, we'd be free,” she said, arousing a stunning cheer from many women in the audience. Further addressing causes of violence against women, she observed, “We haven't been able to differentiate between erotica and pornography.” She also pointed out the larger consequences of suppressing women rights. “The cost of violence against women can weigh on a nation’s economy.”
Statements such as these, from authors looking to engage an already eager crowd with messages contained in their books have ingrained itself with the very identity of not just this festival, but also literature as whole.