Kishwar Naheed
کشور ناہید
Kishwar Naheed

Occupation(s)Poet, Writer
AwardsSitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) Award (2000)
Kamal-e-Fun Award (Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature) (2015)
Mandela Prize (1997)
Adamjee Literary Award (1968)

Kishwar Naheed (Urdu: کشور ناہید) (born 1940) is a feminist Urdu poet and writer from Pakistan. She has written several poetry books. She has also received awards including Sitara-e-Imtiaz for her literary contribution to Urdu literature.[1][2]

Early life

Kishwar Naheed was born in 1940 to a Syed family in Bulandshahr, India.[1] She migrated to Lahore, Pakistan after the partition in 1949 with her family.[3] Kishwar was a witness to the violence (including rape and abduction of women) associated with the partition of India.[4] The bloodshed at that time left a lasting impression on her at a tender age.[5] As a young girl, Kishwar was inspired by the girls who had started going to Aligarh Muslim University in those times. The white kurta and white gharara under a black burqa that they wore looked so elegant to her and she wanted to go to college, to educate herself.[6]

She finished Adeeb Fazil degree in Urdu and learned Persian language also. She had become a voracious reader in her teenage years and read everything that she chanced upon — ranging from the works of Dostoyevsky to the English dictionary published by Neval Kishore Press.

She struggled and fought to receive an education, when women were not allowed to go to school. [1] She studied at home and received a high school diploma through correspondence courses. After matriculation, there was a lot of family resistance to her taking admission in college but her brother, Syed Iftikhar Zaidi, paid for her tuition and helped her continue her formal education.[6] In Pakistan, she went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in 1959 and a Master's in Economics in 1961 from Punjab University, Lahore. Kishwar married her friend and a poet Yousuf Kamran and the couple have two sons. After her husband's death, she worked to raise her children and support the family.[6][3]


Kishwar Naheed has 12 volumes of her poetry published in both Pakistan and India. Her Urdu poetry has also been published in foreign languages all over the world. Her famous poem 'We Sinful Women' (Urdu: ہم گنہگار عورتیں), affectionately referred to as a women's anthem among Pakistani feminists, gave its title to a groundbreaking anthology of contemporary Urdu feminist poetry, translated and edited by Rukhsana Ahmad and published in London by The Women's Press in 1991.[4][1]

Kishwar Naheed has also written eight books for children and has won the prestigious UNESCO award for children's literature.[4] Her love for children is as much as her concern for women. She expresses this concern in her poem, Asin Burian We Loko, which is a touching focus on the plight of women in the present male-dominated society. Naheed has served in major positions in various national institutions. She was Director General of Pakistan National Council of the Arts before her retirement. She also edited a prestigious literary magazine Mahe Naw and founded an organisation Hawwa (Eve) whose goal is to help women without an independent income become financially independent through cottage industries and selling handicrafts.[4][1]

Politics and Feminism

Kishwar Naheed has been witness to the struggles and aspirations that Pakistan has gone through as a nation. Her written work, spanning more than four decades, chronicles her experiences as a woman writer engaged in the creative and civic arenas, even as she has dealt with personal, social, and official backlashes.[5]

Months after the Partition of India – a little before her family moved to Lahore from Bulandshahr – Kishwar saw something which left a lasting impression on her mind and her heart. The pain and sadness she felt in those moments have stayed with her forever. Some Muslim girls who belonged to Bulandshahr were kidnapped during the Partition riots. Either they succeeded in running away from their captors or were rescued, they arrived back in Bulandshahr. Some were known to her family and she accompanied her mother and sisters to go see them. They looked haggard, exhausted and broken. Surrounded by other women who were trying to console them, they were all lying down on the floor or reclining against the walls in a large room. The feet of these women were badly bruised and soaked in blood. That was the moment when Kishwar Naheed says she stopped being just a child and became a girl child. She became a woman. She still remembers those blood-soaked feet and says "Women and girls anywhere have their feet soaked in blood. Very little has changed over the decades. This must end".[6]

Influenced by the Progressive Writers' Movement in South Asia and the ideals of socialism, Kishwar Naheed witnessed major international political upheavals; Pakistan was under martial law and new ideas and forms were being introduced and appreciated in Urdu literature. Kishwar and her friends got involved in everything. One day they would take a procession out in support of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Egyptian right over the Suez Canal, the next day they would bring out a rally for Vietnam or Palestine or Latin America.[6]

In an interview to the Pakistani monthly magazine, The Herald (Pakistan), Kishwar Naheed commenting on censorship says:

"we must not forget that creative writers and artists do not live in isolation. It is natural to react to and comment on the political and social circumstances in which one lives. On one hand, it is said that creative people are more sensitive and concerned while, on the other hand, it is argued that they must confine themselves to writing about themselves or their inner feelings. It is fine that we should write about our inner feelings but when Malala [Yousafzai] was shot or girl schools in Swat were being razed to the ground, it was my inner feeling that I wrote about. My poems will now be seen as a critical social comment and some may call these political poems but these poems represent my inner feelings......Creativity cannot be regulated nor should it be. Who would know this better than a woman writer or artist who has to struggle all her life to be able to express what she feels and thinks, to be able to articulate the way she wishes to articulate, to be able to present to the world what she wishes to present in her own unique way."

"This freedom to write and express has come through a struggle drenched in tears".[6]

Kishwar Naheed also champions the cause of peace in South Asia and has played a significant role in promoting Pakistan India People's Forum and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Writers Forum. She has participated in global literary and cultural movements bringing together writers and artists who believe in a fair and equitable global political order. Her powerful poems against extremist religious thought, violence, terrorism and increased suffering of women and girls due to radicalization have created waves locally and internationally.[6]

Literary works

Kishwar Naheed is widely acclaimed for her sharp and incisive poetic expression, for being bold and direct, and, for celebrating the universal human struggle for equality, justice and freedom.[6] She also writes a regular weekly newspaper column in Daily Jang. Commentators and critics have noticed that, with time, her voice has grown "louder, more insistent and somehow more intimate".[7]

Her first poetry collection was Lab-e Goya, published in 1968, that won the Adamjee Literary Award.[4]

Books (Selected Works)
Year Title Publisher Notes
1968 Lab-i goyā[4] Lahore: Maktabah-yi Karvan The first collection of poetry

Won the Adamjee Literary Award[4]

2006 Warq Warq Aaina Sang-e-Meel Publications
2016 Aabad Kharaba Afzal Ahmad
Buri Aurat Ki Khata Autobiography
2012 Chand Ki Beti Maktaba Payam-e-Taleem, New Delhi
2001 Dasht-e-Qais Men Laila - Kulliyat Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore
2010 Aurat Mard Ka Rishta Sang-e-Meel Publications
1978 Galiyan Dhoop Darwaze (Lanes, Sunshine, Doors)[4] Mohammad Jameelunnabi
2012 Jadu Ki Handiyan Maktaba Payam-e-Taleem, New Delhi
1996 Khawateen Afsana Nigar Niyaz Ahmad
2011 Raat Ke Musafir Director Qaumi Council Bara-e- Farogh-e-Urdu Zaban New Delhi
2012 Sher Aur Bakri Maktaba Payam-e-Taleem, New Delhi
2001 The Distance of a Shout Oxford University Press Urdu poems with English translations
Translated in other languages (Selected Works)
Year Title Translator Translation




2010 A Bad Woman's Story Durdana Soomro Buri Aurat Ki Katha English Oxford University Press, USA
- We Sinful Women[1] Hum Gunehgar Aurtein[1] Many Languages
- Lips that Speak Lab-i-goya English
- Leaves of Reflections Warq Warq Aaina English
Translations (Selected Works)
Title Translation




1982 Aurat Ek Nafsiyati Mutala The Second Sex

by Simone de Beauvoir

Urdu Deen Gard Publications Limited
Magazine (Selected Works)
Year Title Editor Publisher Volume
2012 Chahar-Soo Gulzar Javed Faizul Islam Printing Press, Rawalpindi 021
Selected Ghazals
Title Notes
ai rah-e-hijr-e-nau-faroz dekh ki hum thahar gae Ghazal
apne lahu se nam likha ghair ka bhi dekh Ghazal
bigdi baat banana mushkil badi baat banae kaun Ghazal
bimar hain to ab dam-e-isa kahan se aae Ghazal
dil ko bhi gham ka saliqa na tha pahle pahle Ghazal
dukh ki gutthi kholenge Ghazal
ek hi aawaz par wapas palat aaenge log Ghazal
girya, mayusi, gham-e-tark-e-wafa kuchh na raha Ghazal
har naqsh-e-pa ko manzil-e-jaan manna pada Ghazal
hasrat hai tujhe samne baithe kabhi dekhun Ghazal
hausla shart-e-wafa kya karna Ghazal
hawa kuchh apne sawal tahrir dekhti hai Ghazal
hum ki maghlub-e-guman the pahle Ghazal
ishq ki gum-shuda manzilon mein gai Ghazal
jab main na hun to shahr mein mujh sa koi to ho Ghazal
kabhi to aa meri aankhon ki raushni ban kar Ghazal
kahaniyan bhi gain qissa-khwaniyan bhi gain Ghazal
khayal-e-tark-e-talluq ko talte rahiye Ghazal
khushbu ko rangton pe ubharta hua bhi dekh Ghazal
kuchh bol guftugu ka saliqa na bhul jae Ghazal
kuchh din to malal us ka haq tha Ghazal
kuchh itne yaad mazi ke fasane hum ko aae hain Ghazal
meri aankhon mein dariya jhulta hai Ghazal
mujhe bhula ke mujhe yaad bhi rakha tu ne Ghazal
na koi rabt ba-juz khamushi o nafrat ke Ghazal
nazar to aa kabhi aankhon ki raushni ban kar Ghazal
pahan ke pairhan-e-gul saba nikalti hai Ghazal
sambhal hi lenge musalsal tabah hon to sahi Ghazal
sulagti ret pe aankhen bhi zer-e-pa rakhna Ghazal
surkhi badan mein rang-e-wafa ki thi kuchh dinon Ghazal
talash dariya ki thi ba-zahir sarab dekha Ghazal
tere qarib pahunchne ke dhang aate the Ghazal
tishnagi achchhi nahin rakhna bahut Ghazal
tujhse wada aziz-tar rakkha Ghazal
tumhaari yaad mein hum jashn-e-gham manaen bhi Ghazal
umr mein us se badi thi lekin pahle tut ke bikhri main Ghazal
wida karta hai dil satwat-e-rag-e-jaan ko Ghazal
ye hausla tujhe mahtab-e-jaan hua kaise Ghazal
zehn rahta hai badan khwab ke dam tak us ka Ghazal
Selected Poems
Title Notes
aaKHiri faisla
aaKHiri KHwahish
ek nazm ijazaton ke liye
ghas to mujh jaisi hai
glass landscape
hum gunahgar aurten Pakistan's Feminist Anthem
kaDe kos
kashid shab
KHudaon se kah do
qaid mein raqs
sone se pahle ek KHayal
Selected Children's Poetry
Title Publisher Notes
batakh aur sanp
chidiya aur koyal
Dais Dais Ki Kahanian Ferozsons Pvt Ltd UNESCO Prize for Children's Literature
gadhe ne bajai bansuri
kutte aur khargosh

Awards and recognition

Year Title By For
1968 Adamjee Literary Award[4] her first collection Lab-e-goya (1968)
UNESCO Prize for Children's Literature[4] Dais Dais Ki Kahanian[4]
Best Translation award[4] Columbia University
1997 Mandela Prize[4]
2000 Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) Award[2][4] One of the highest honours bestowed by the President of Pakistan her literary services to Pakistan
2015 Kamal-e-Fun Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) in Literature[8][2] Pakistan Academy of Letters her life-long services to literature
2016 Premchand Fellowship[9] Sahitya Akademi of India her contribution to SAARC literature

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Profile of Kishwar Naheed". PoetryTranslation.Org website. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Ikram Junaidi (14 December 2016). "Kishwar Naheed nominated for the Kamal-i-Fun Award". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b "I BELIEVE IN HUMANISTIC PHILOSOPHY (scroll down to Kishwar Naheed profile)". 20 April 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Profile of Kishwar Naheed (poet) - Pakistan". Poetry International website. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b Mahwash, Shoaib (2009). "Vocabulary of Resistance: A Conversation with Kishwar Naheed". Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. 1 (2): 1.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Khalique, Harris (18 June 2015). "An interview with feminist poet Kishwar Naheed". Herald Magazine. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  7. ^ Laurel, Steele (2002). Review of Kishwar Naheed's The Distance of a Shout: Urdu Poems with English Translations. Annual of Urdu Studies 17. pp. 337–46.
  8. ^ Kishwar Naheed nominated for top literary award The Express Tribune (newspaper), Published 14 December 2016, Retrieved 2 June 2019
  9. ^ "Premchand Fellowship Winners". Sahitya Akademi of India. Retrieved 24 June 2021.

Further reading