ISLAMABAD: A two-day international conference on ‘Critical Social Sciences and Humanities’, organised by Critical Thinking Forum (CTF) of International Islamic University (IIU), Islamabad started on Thursday. The two-day event by CTF, in collaboration with US Embassy, is focused on a comprehensive appraisal of transmutations and tendencies in contemporary human societies and exploration of the prevalent human condition in light of humanities and social sciences. The inaugural ceremony was attended by Vice President Dr Uxi Mufti, Dr Muhammad Munir, US Embassy Public Affairs Officer Kathryn Crockart, University of Idaho Department of English Chair Prof Scott Slovic, Agnes Scott College Professor of English Prof Dr Waqas Khwaja, Dean Faculty of Languages and Literature Dr Munawar Iqbal Gondal, CTF Director Dr MunazzaYaqoob and faculty members of the university. “This is the age of synthesis. We need to stress and focus on interdisciplinary research,” said Uxi Mufti. “There is a need to move forward beyond status quo and explore new avenues of knowledge,” the LokVirsa founder said. Dr Munir, in his speech, hailed the CTF efforts and termed the event a valuable platform towards critical thinking and its uses. He felicitated the forum for arranging the event and hoped that the concluding ceremony would result in meaningful recommendations. Kathryn Crockart said that the US Embassy was keen to enhance mutual goal of empowering women and research. She said that CTF was a meaningful platform to pursue shared goals such as gender balance. She said that both the CTF and the US Embassy would be keen to fix things with joint efforts. Scot Slovic, the keynote speaker, spoke on eco-criticism, environmental literature and art. He also discussed the attributes of environmental writes, their duties, approach and critical thinking. Dr Khawaja, another keynote speaker, said that individuals had the right to change the language, but they did not have a right to impose it. He said that new knowledge in local languages was an imperative contemporary requirement. He suggested that there was a need to invest in native languages. “Literary festivals should be dedicated to the local publishers to contribute in the society,” he said. Meanwhile, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment’s (ASLE) Pakistan Chapter was also launched. Dr Munnaza said that ASLE sought to inspire and promote intellectual work in the environmental humanities and arts. “Now same will be pursued in its Pakistan chapter,” she said. The conference will conclude today. Poetry book: An Urdu poetry book – Aurat Teri Kahani (Woman Your Story) – was launched on Thursday. The book has been written by a domestic worker who comes from a humble background. Nagina Asif is a self-taught poet with a modest educational background. She, a mother of four, works as a maid in Lahore to support her husband who works in as a non-academic staffer in a private university. Despite not being very educated, she has written remarkable poetry that has been gaining popularity. Nagina Asif said she has been writing for the last 15 years and she had written a lot of work. She was just writing and did not know whether it would ever be published. Her employer saw her writings and helped publish the work. She said only some of poems had been selected for publishing and there was a lot of unpublished work. “Some poems tell the story and experiences of my life. Others are about the women in my surroundings, who are struggling in their lives,” she said. She also recited some of her poems for the audience. In one such poem ‘Haey Tera Naseeb Aurat’, she compares women with fallen leaves whom destiny makes to wander in various places such as palaces, brothels, flower pots, bushes, in corners, in sweltering heat and in shadows. Renowned poet Kishwar Naheed in her forward of the book wrote that her poems were truthful, innocent and spontaneous. “At some point, the poetry brings out tears. Her poems made me think about where she had got such ideas. The society has so deteriorated that small children, instead of dreaming about fairies, see the solitude of their elderly parents and destituteness,” she said. Later, speaking at the launch, she said life experiences, sentiments and her tears had become the words in her books. She said the poems had been published the way she wrote and there was little or no amendments in the actual manuscripts. “Young women writers often ask me the technicalities or methods of poetry writing. I ask them to write down what they think and what they feel. But let me cook for a while and then write in detail,” she said. Iftikhar Arif said the book made the reader experience the pain of the writer. “Some books are so well written and there is no grammatical mistake in them. However, if they don’t make you think or cry, it means they are not good books. Women in Pakistan have written great and good poetry, which was even better than men. Even in other countries and languages, women have not written that level of work,” he said. The launch was organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women and National Language Promotion Department. Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2017.