Day 9: Our Women on the Ground

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

Edited by Zahra Hankir, Our Women on the Ground: Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World is a first-of-its-kind essay collection by Arab women journalists on what it’s like to report on their changing homelands in this. Amira Al-Sharif’s chapter ‘Yemeni Women with Fighting Spirits’ was my recommendation for writing by a woman from Yemen; as its title suggests, it’s a unique insight into resilience and empowerment in even the most trying conditions.

A remarkable essay collection
A remarkable essay collection

In a nutshell: This is an extraordinary, ground-breaking, and pulsingly intimate collection of essays by 19 Arab women journalists – rather than meeting my high expectations, it soared above and beyond them.

To pluck out a line“We don’t publish the picture. It’s too graphic, and people are too sensitive. Those of us who count as people, with sensibilities” – Natacha Yazbeck

If I had to choose one image: Born in Iraq and raised in Hull, Hind Hassan recalls many beautiful scenes of hospitality in the unlikeliest circumstances during assignments in her homeland, as well as a memory from the Iraqi community in which she grew up: a friend secretly slipping in & out of an ajar window to clean and cook for the whole family while Hind’s mother was having birth complications.

Sharing a thought: I was fascinated by Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah’s reflections on her journey towards activating a “belated lens on gender” in her work, particularly her thoughts on the duality of selves (in the family home and the “street home”) and on power both inside & outside the newsroom – its complexity and, at times, invisibility.

Fact: Many of the women’s stories include the trauma of losing family, friends and colleagues to conflict zones or political repression, and it’d be remiss not to mention the very real risks they face just for doing their job – I hope their voices resound worldwide.

If you’d like to read Our Women on the Ground, visit here.

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