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Kishwar Naheed
Poet
--: Biography of Kishwar Naheed :--

 

Born into a traditional family that moved to Lahore, Pakistan during the 1947 Partition of the sub-continent, Naheed had to fight to pursue an education in a milieu where women did not go to school and "were not allowed to speak to boys." She studied at home and obtained a high school diploma through correspondence courses, but went on to receive a masters degree in Economics from Punjab University.
 
Born in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1940, Kishwar Naheed is one of the best- known feminist poets of Pakistan. In a field dominated by traditional male voices, Naheed, writing in Urdu, was a pioneer of a new, distinctively feminine voice and has produced over the span of thirty years a body of work that is innovative, defiant, political, and self-aware. Her poetry dared to go beyond the prescribed accepted 'feminine' realms to include hitherto unmined fields of female sexuality, politics, and social issues.
 
In an interview with Rakhshanda Jalil for the Indian daily The Hindu, Kishwar Naheed explained her writing as an attempt to redefine the man-woman relationship. Rejecting being branded as a radical or a bohemian, she declared herself "a realist" who "never let herself get pushed around by men or by circumstances."
 
Naheed's first collection of poetry, Lab-i goya, published in 1968, won the prestigious Adamjee Prize of Literature. This collection of traditional ghazals was followed by a collection of nazms, by translations of foreign poetry, and by many works in free verse. She also wrote for children and for the daily Jang, published her autobiography in 1994 (it appeared the following year in India), her collected poetic work released in a 1312 page volume entitled Dasht-i qais men Lail'a. Her daily columns in Jang were also collected and published in 1999.
Her poetry has been translated into English and Spanish and her famous poem "We, sinful women" gave its title to a path-breaking anthology of contemporary Urdu feminist poetry translated and edited by Rukhsana Ahmad, published in London by The Women's Press in 1991.
In a country dominated by the voice of its men, her writings come as a breath of fresh air, in a voice that is distinctly feminine and one that moves the women who read and hear her. "People have been writing about women, romancing them but what a woman thinks or writes has never been accepted," she avers.
Her poetry, as a result, goes beyond the 'prescribed' norms of femininity touching on gender issues, sexuality, the need to emancipate men and not women and most of all human relationships. "Most people have not written about the maturity of love. What is it to be alone not lonely, to take death as reality, not tragedy and of old age where you can see everything growing but not you?" she explains.
It is therefore not surprising that Kishwar is more than just a voice of reason in her country; she is part counsellor, part psychologist, serving as a cathartic medium for women needing to talk, of women who draw their strength from her writings.
 
It is from these women that Kishwar in turn draws from. A process that goes back to Partition and the plight of women then, her annoyance at women writers being criticised simply for being women and the continuing abuse against women, till today.
 
Kishwar Naheed has held the position of Director General of Pakistan National Council of the Arts before her retirement, has edited a prestigious literary magazine Mah-i naw, and has founded an organization named Hawwa (Eve) whose goal is to help homebound women become financially independent through cottage industries and the marketing of handicrafts.
The Library of Congress has twenty-five works by Naheed in its collection. She read for the Library in Lahore on December 13, 1977.
 
Awards
Adamjee Prize of Literature on Lab-e-goya (1969)
UNESCO Prize for Children's Literature on Dais Dais Ki Kahanian
Best Translation award of Columbia University
Mandela Prize (1997)
Sitara-e-Imtiaz (2000)
 
 
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