Scores of women from Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan contribute to a new book reflecting their role in society

Hundreds of women sent in contributions to be included in the groundbreaking book My City, My Home launched at the Midlands Arts Centre

Roma Saimbi, Piali Ray OBE, Ilika Chakravarty Mandal launch My City, My Home book at MAC

A groundbreaking book written by women from Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan has won praise for showcasing real life experiences.

Published in English, Urdu and Bangla, My City, My Home features 184 poems, short-stories reflecting on the identity and the role of women in 21st century society.

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The book was made possible through a specially commissioned, international writing competition launched by Sampad South Asian Arts & Heritage in September 2020, a year which marked the company’s 30th anniversary.

It is part of Transforming Narratives, a groundbreaking project that supports creative and cultural practitioners and organisations in Birmingham to engage in exchange with artists and organisations in cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was also supported by the British Council and Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham-based Sampad, one of the UK’s leading arts development agencies, worked alongside Project Associates in Pakistan and Bangladesh connecting online with diverse groups of women and girls in their countries and supporting them through workshops to participate.

More than 280 entries were sent in from women who wanted to share their emotions, ambitions, joys, dreams, disappointments, resentment and pain.

Judges selected 184 entries to be included in the book with three overall winners chosen.

  • English language: Ilika Chakravarty Mandal, Birmingham, UK - Yellow Sweater’
  • Bangla Language: Shahana Yasmin, Dhaka, Bangladesh - ‘Ek kichhui korena meyer golpo’
  • Urdu language: Nadia Umer, Lahore, Pakistan -‘Shehar Kay Dil’
MAC Birmingham

What have the winners said about My City, My Home?

Commenting on her work Bangladesh overall winner Shahana Yasmin said: “In Dhaka, the city I live in, you can see mothers of school children waiting outside the school for 5 to 6 hours every day.

“This city does not have any public toilets for women. These mothers cannot go to the toilet for a long time and develop urinary diseases.

“Their husbands don’t find them attractive so they have relationships with other women. I wanted to write about the plight of these mothers. ‘My City, My Home’ inspired me to write this.”

Ilika Chakravarty Mandal, Birmingham overall winneradded: “Having moved across cities and continents through study, marriage, work and motherhood, I have often questioned myself: What is home? Where is home?

“‘My City, My Home’was a topic to which my persona instantly connected. So much so, that I picked up my pen after almost thirty years to use the dying art of letter writing in a personal note for my ageing mum, who now seemed even more geographically distanced in a post-COVID world.

“To see my story published and shared is simply fabulous and I am inspired to try writing more regularly.”

What have Sampad said about My City, My Home?

Piali Ray OBE, Artistic Director at Sampad said “The theme My City, My Home has strong personal resonance with me in the same way that it connected with many women who responded to our call for this writing competition.

It was greatly rewarding to receive 280 entries from the many unheard voices of women who shared their emotions, ambitions, joys, dreams, disappointments, resentment and pain. Their words resonate with each other towards a place of strength, identity and belonging. We connect in their personal journeys and treasured memories and it is a delight to be able to share them.”

Kavita Bhanot, Roma Saimbi ,Piali Ray OBE, Anne Cockitt at the launch of My City, My Home at MAC

What has Transforming Narratives said about My City, My Home

Transforming Narratives, a groundbreaking project that supports creative and cultural practitioners and organisations in Birmingham to engage in exchange with artists and organisations in cities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Sophina Jagot, Project Director Transforming Narratives commented: “Transforming Narratives offers a range of platforms for new artistic voices, exchanging narratives around contemporary lived experience across Birmingham (UK), Pakistan and Bangladesh and My City, My Home certainly delivers on that ambition.

We are delighted to be working with Sampad to share the words of women across these three countries, in some instances sharing their words for the first time, and to feel a connection with all their experiences and ambitions.”

How do I get a copy of My City, My Home?

My City, My Home published by Sampad South Asian Arts & Heritage, is available via [email protected]

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