Indien: Urvashi Butalia

Early in my life I realized that knowledge is a most powerful weapon, and the silence of women across the world was premised on the denial of knowledge and information.

— Urvashi Butalia

Urvashi Butalia (born 1952) is the face and voice of feminist literature and publishing in India. In 1984, she set up Kali for Women, India's first feminist publishing house, from a little office in a garage and with almost no funds. Two decades later, Kali has succeeded in bringing to the fore the marginalized voices of Indian women.

Having worked with Oxford University Press, New Delhi, Urvashi Butalia thought extensively about setting up an exclusively feminist publishing house. In 1984, when she returned from London, she set up Kali for Women, India's first feminist publishing press, with the publisher and writer Ritu Menon. "Taking the Hindu goddess of power, Kali, as inspiration, I decided to dedicate my work to creating and carving spaces where women's voices could be heard, and where their wisdom and courage could be given the respect they deserved." Urvashi and Ritu had to quit their jobs to set up Kali, terribly short of cash, as a garage operation. Kali's arrival was greeted with some expectations and some skepticism. Distribution and marketing were a headache for a publisher as diminutive as Kali, but the women devised alternative logistics. In 2003, Kali for Women diversified into two sister imprints, with Urvashi setting up Zubaan Books (zubaan means tongue), which publishes books for young adults, a field that is fallow in India. Urvashi is also an activist and a writer. Perhaps her best-known work is "The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India", which has changed the historical perspective by focusing on those at the margins. She has also been part of groups working for conflict prevention and violence amelioration. As chairperson of the Aman Trust, she has worked in Kashmir and Northeast India, examining particularly the impact of conflict on the lives of women. Urvashi has devoted more than two decades to the production and dissemination of knowledge to an undervoiced community. She has helped develop a space for, and corpus of, women's voices in the mainstream consciousness. She says: "The experience of working with women has been one I have never regretted, not for a day, not for a moment."

Zubaan Books Kali for Women