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Gaby Vallejo Canedo
Women Writers’ Committee


A few years ago Teluria, the Bolivian journal for women writers, picked up on the expression “a woman who knows Latin shall have no husband and no happy ending”, as a cruel phrase which ironically highlights the limitations society imposed on women’s attempts to acquire knowledge in times when Latin was the key tool for accessing culture.

Today there is another expression circulating on the internet, at a time when no-one can restrict the circulation of knowledge and information, which says “women who read are dangerous”. This is neither cruel nor ironic, but there are plenty of subtle mechanisms to generate a fear of women who read. And perhaps this fear of women is what is driving the serious violence against women throughout the world.

The two phrases are separated by three hundred years or more. And although women are now taking over universities, running companies, serving as presidents in various countries around the world, and millions of men acknowledge this change and incorporate it in their lives, there are still signs of violence against women, in all its forms, visible and invisible.

Now we have a situation where women don’t just read, they also write. The short Bolivian book “¡BASTA!” [Enough!], featuring 39 pieces of flash fiction from 39 Bolivian women writers, hopes to give men and women in future generations something to reflect on. All the authors know that, worldwide, there are many laws to protect women, and organisations running great campaigns, but they also know that it will never be enough to tremble, to hit out with words, when girls like Malala Yousofzai are persecuted for wanting to read and write, for wanting to be free.

Centre PEN de Guinée

guinee2Centre PEN de Guinée identified a lack of access to literature as a key freedom of expression issue in the country and developed a mobile library project to service communities without libraries or adequate resourcing of schools. Since its inception in 2008, 40 schools, including pupils, teachers and other staff, have been invited to use the mobile library; in addition, 600 members of parents associations and an estimated 30,000 young people (10,000 of whom are female students) in 40 Communautés Rurales de Développement (local governing structures) have used the mobile library. As well as providing access to resources the Centre have also held literary meeting (usually with Centre members), discussions about freedom of expression issues and reading and writing workshops through the mobile library project. In 2014 the Centre is planning to work further with its partner schools and communities and dedicate the workshop sessions specifically to discussing women and girls rights.

PEN Austria 

PEN Austria

To mark International Women’s Day, PEN Austria held a free event ‘mulieris mundi’ on 6 March featuring a series of talks by women writers from around the world.  Writers speaking at the event included: Kenyan writer, lecturer and human rights activist Philo Ikonya, Austrian writer Dorothea Macheiner, essayist , journalist and philosopher,  Etela Farkašová, Iranian writer Ishraga M. Hamid, Argentinan writer Luisa Beatriz Futoransky, and many others.

For more information click here.

To view the event page click here.


PEN marks International Women’s Day
Message from the International Women Writers’ Committee to PEN Centers on Women’s Day 2014.
Malawi PEN: Supporting girls and women through education.
For more details on cases PEN is monitoring click here.
To find out more about the work of PEN International’s Women Writers Committee click here.
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