In India, putting women's voices to press

More than 20 years ago, a group of Indian women, concerned that women's rights narratives were going unheard, founded their own feminist publishing house that still pushes boundaries today.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

As India wrestles with female infanticide and other issues related to women’s rights, one publisher has been pushing to get female voices heard.

Go beyond a strip of high-end boutiques in Delhi, into an alley past a cow resting beneath a tarp, and climb up the stairs of a nondescript building. There, titles from the publisher Zubaan (meaning “tongue” or “language” in Hindi) are stacked on towering shelves.

The nonprofit imprint sprang from Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing outfit established more than 20 years ago. Zubaan has published books that its founders say would not otherwise see the light of day.

From the narratives of domestic-violence victims and women in India’s troubled zones to the stories of far-off villages and prostitutes, Zubaan has tried to cover the spectrum of Indian women’s voices. That has resulted in dozens of historical and academic texts, novels, autobiographies, and other nonfiction works in English, Hindi, and additional Indian languages. The enterprise is not always profitable, and sometimes critics find the content of the books too marginal. Yet founder Urvashi Butalia, a well-known figure in India’s women’s movement, says all women have something important to say and listening to them can lead to a “better world.”

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