International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. This International Women’s Day, let’s take inspiration from children’s author, Onjali Rauf (The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Night Bus Hero). Onjali’s work – both her writing and her social activism – tackles difficult subjects of hardship and injustice, while always reflecting hope and the possibility of positive change. Her message is that individuals can make a real difference, all the more so by joining together in collective action.
Identifying as a feminist from a young age, Onjali Rauf read Women’s Studies at Oxford, and went on to work for human rights charities. In 2011 her aunt, Mumtahina ‘Ruma’ Jannat, was murdered by her own husband. Onjali said of her aunt, “She fought for her life and for everyone to hear her story for five long years – only to have judges, lawyers, social workers and the police dismiss her and be all too-willing to side with the husband she was trying desperately to divorce from and who would ultimately act to take her life.” This led Onjali to set up the foundation, Making Herstory, mobilising people from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond.
Read more about Onjali in this fascinating and inspiring interview in Pen&Inc (p.7).
Onjali Q. Raúf was BookTrust’s Writer in Residence last year. In the role, she highlighted various political issues, from human rights to the environment to poverty and racism, and how these can be explored through books and writing – and how books can inspire us to take action.
Speaking on International Women’s Day 2021, on being appointed as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence, Onjali said:
‘I am deeply excited to be spending the next six months shining a light on those authors whose magical story-telling powers have made (and still make) me want to get up and act on an issue that matters to me deeply: issues that I hope will interest and matter deeply to you too.
And whilst I can’t wait to share the stories, both real and imaginary, that inspire me, I am also keen to expand my own horizons. Because what I really want to do, is learn from you too and hear about all the s/heroes in your neck of the woods working hard to make the world a kinder, better place to be in for all.
So come join me as of this year’s International Women’s Day, and let’s get thinking, asking, and championing amazing books written by amazing people, together!’