In September 1995 Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first female leader of a Muslim country, told the UN World Conference on Women, held in Beijing: ‘To those who claim to speak for Islam but who would deny to women our place in society, I say: The ethos of Islam is equality, equality between the sexes. There is no religion on earth that, in its writing and teachings, is more respectful of the role of women in society than Islam.’
Titled She Speaks – The Power of Women’s Voices, the anthology has been put together by UK Labour MP Yvette Cooper, a strong advocate of women’s rights who explores in the book the role of oratory in her own life, ‘explaining why silencing women must be forever confined to the past’.
She Speaks includes the address given by the activist Malala Yousafzai to the UN in New York in 2013 in which she said: ‘The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them…let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.’
Other figures whose words are included are the climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, the actress and campaigner Emma Watson, the Nigerian-American writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, US talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The foreign rights have not been sold yet and Atlantic’s Alice Latham discussed the title at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair (16-20 October).