Homegrown Supergirls at Dhaka Lit Fest
HerStories: Adventures of Supergirls” is a book of illustrated stories about 21 Bengali women from Ancient Bengal to present-day. This book was produced by The HerStory Foundation. Zareen Mahmud Hosein founded HerStory to focus on the empowerment of women and gender equality through art and documentation.
Set in Bangladesh and told by Amiya, a little girl, the stories of these inspirational women are a written in an engaging manner with quirky illustrations. The stories in this book are told in chronological order based on which year they were born. The first story is that of legendary astrologer Khana and the last is of modern day weightlifter Mabia Akhter. The other Supergirls in this book include activists—from Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a pioneer of women's right to education in the region to Ila Mitra, who fought for the rights of the Santals. There are artists—from Chandrabati who was a storyteller to the poet Sufia Kamal. Other inspirational women from Bengal are included as well, such as Dr Zohra Begum Kazi, who was the first female physician in Bengal.
Four such homegrown supergirls featured in the session at Dhaka Lit Fest, at the end of which the book was unveiled. Nishat Mazumder is the first Bangladeshi woman to scale Mount Everest, Nayma Haque and Tamanna-e-Lufti the first Bangladeshi women combat pilots in the Bangladesh Air Force, and Mabia Akhter, who won a gold medal for weightlifting in the South Asian Games. The session was moderated by Dr. Seuty Sabur, the Research Coordinator for the book project. The four Supergirls shared their stories—what inspires them, how they manage the delicate balance of work and home lives, and how they would not have been able to be successful without the support of their families.
The women featured in this session are all role models. Madiha Murshed, an educator and publisher, summed up the discussion by saying that the job of a role model is not to break barriers, but to show the world that it is possible to achieve much. Positive role models influence children to believe in themselves, and instill the belief that it is okay to dream big and have ambitions. She emphasized the fact that, too often, families and society tell girls that it is not appropriate for them to have these dreams, and so it is especially important for girls to have strong female role models to look up to.
The book is written in an engaging manner, and the illustrations make it particularly appealing to children. The stories are to the point but not dry which ensures that children reading it are going to remain engrossed till the end. Reading about inspiring women throughout history (or HerStory!) should not only inspire little girls and boys alike but adults as well.