Looking back, I can’t quite remember how this book ended up on my TBR back in February 2020. It did though and I’m glad to have read it, even if it took me longer than I hoped to actually complete it. There is something incredibly valuable about learning a story from the person experiencing it; of seeking out authentic voices and sources. In bringing Our Women on the Ground, Zahra Hankir puts the voice of women journalists from the Arab world front and center, where they should be.
The countries represented in this work are as varied as the nineteen women writing from and about them. It is, by its very nature, an advocation for local voices. Reading these essays I was struck again and again how these voices are by and large missing from the media narrative, or if not missing certainly overshadowed. We usually hear from Western correspondents who might cover the area for a year or two and then return to their home countries where they might write memoirs or authoritative non-fiction books and become the go to sources for the area. By this model we are being denied the voices from this area of the world who have the ability to bring a more authentic telling of events to the surface. They have unique and intimate access, and as such are able to tell the story of the Arab world and broader Middle East with a profound sense of nuance and cultural understanding which rises to the surface in each of these essays. On top of that, this book is nothing but women’s experiences – even the translated works are translated by a woman – and I find myself more and more seeking out women’s voices to balance the absurd over abundance of male voices in the media.