Book reviews 2002:
Courage and Consequence:- Women publishing in Africa, by African Books Collective
This book tells the astounishing life stories of female publishers in Africa in their own words.The contributors to this book write not only about the publishing and gender, but also about the political situation in their home countries, like Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Their fields of publishing are diverse: from state, commercial, non-profit, community publishing to a women's writers group and a bookseller. The book is easy to read, and though factual, the personal situation and individual writing style of every author of the elven short stories provides an interesting and broad- mindening experience. Particularly interesting I found the story of "community publishing" in which writing and publishing is used as a tool in community education to empower and encourage people.
For example here is a short account of one of the women telling how community publishing in Zimbabwe changed her life:
"My life before community publishing was very different, I can hardly recognise the person I used to be. I was a shy person, who was unable to express herself. I could hardly speak in front of the crowd or even talk with a stranger. I had a shallow mind and I was surviving from piecework (Maricho), that is working for food or money in someone's field. My life was so difficult. After learning the skills in Community Publishing my capacity has been built. I have gained courage, confidence and trust. My living conditions have been changed because my talent and skills have been encouraged."
Also of special interest are the effects of the world wide trade globalisation policy of the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund on publishing educational books, like school books in Kenya:
"This was also the time of ' cost-sharing' in education, as prescribed by the World Bank/ International Monetary Fund as part of the Structural Adjustment Programmes. This involved parents taking over some of the education costs from the government, including provision of textbooks. The impact of cost-sharing on publishers was the reduction of the textbook market; many pupils had to go without textbooks simply because their parents couldn't afford them. In addition, the mode of textbook procurement had changed from centralised purchasing by the Ministry of Education to purchasing at school/parent level. This increased marketing and sales costs considerably, as it was now necessary to visit many more individual schools and bookshops."
These are only two excerpts out of this extraordinary collection of outstanding women in Africa, who have gone to great lengths to realise their dreams.
Review of "British Women's Organisations 1825- 1960".
Now out as paperback! A good decision- as this dictionary should be as widespread as possible. A wide range of women's organisation is introduced and explained here: The content includes not only political groups such as the suffrage groups, the "Women Anti- Opium Urgency Committee" or the "Rational Dress Society", but also professional organisations such as the "Women's Engineering Society" or sports clubs like the "Ladies Cyclists Association" and religious groups. Most of the organisations are introduced with their aims, prominent members, the date it was founded, its location, its activities. Funnily enough even some men's groups are mentioned here, mainly societies which were formed to participate in women's concerns, often to support women's suffrage, such as the "Men's Committee for Justice to Women". The book, sadly, does not include organisations which are either international women's groups, run by government, concerned with mental health, or girls schools. The book also includes an extensive bibliography which gives the reader a glimpse about how difficult and intensive the research must have been for the authors, and also an index to entries, which does not only comprises all the groups, but also personal names, place names and subjects. The introduction gives also valuable historical background information. This book is factual and objective. It is a good, well-researched book, written by experts, and recommendable to anyone, who has an interest in women's history.