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Women writers asked to benefit from available freedom

By Sher Alam Shinwari 2019-11-04
PESHAWAR: Senior writer Dr Salma Shaheen has asked Pakhtun women writers to take maximum advantage of the space available to them to bring out their hidden talent.

Acknowledging talent of the young women, she said that Pakhtun women enjoyed more freedom and space than ever before owing to their creativity and capabilities.

She said that she had never prized on childhood experiences because of the so-called social norms though her parents provided her with every possible way to move ahead.

The former director of Pashto Academy and author of 18 books, Dr Salma Shaheen recently spoke to this scribe dwelling on her past career and role of women writers in shaping the outlook of the society.

Beating down the memory lane of her career as poet, she said that young Pakhtun women writers had an edge over those lived in the past for being more empowered, educated and aware of their rights and duties comparedtohve decadesago.

Ms Shaheen had attained superannuation as first woman director of PashtoAcademy,UniversityPeshawar in 2014 but she continued her poeticand research activities and most often remained busy in supervising works of research scholars.

`I had started my writing career when in I was in 8th grade. I used to hire books for self-reading on six paisa from a library set up near our home by a bibliophile. That small library housed in claymade room inspired me. I went through almost all Pashto and Urdu classics alongside progressive Russian, German and Chinese writers, especially fiction. My father affiliated with Khudai Khidmatgar Tehreek of Bacha was instrumental in my education and onward journey,` the senior writer recalled.

She said that she and afew other women faced hardships and passed through a thorny trail and built a highway for Pakhtun women. She said that there was a time when she would attend literary and cultural events sitting among swath of men around her and at other times would walk up all alone to radio and PTV to give talk on women issues and their rights.

`Af ter becoming first woman director of Pashto Academy, my colleagues mostly male turned against and dragged me to the courts but I remained firm and committed to my stance. They wanted to merge Pashto Academy with Pashto department which was against the rules. Duringmy nine-year service as director, I accomplished several important projects including preservation of over 2,000 Pashto old manuscripts. Also, I set up a Pakhtun cultural museum and refused to take Rs800,000 as remuneration and donated the amount for purchasing furniture for the said museum,` she said.

Ms Shaheen said that she used to encourage women writers to raise awareness regarding their rights and role in the society. She said that despite ailing health, she was affiliated with dif ferent literary, cultural, rights, and academic organisations in various capacities.