Kali for Women
Kali for Women was an important start-up feminist publisher in India. Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon set up Kali for Women in 1984, arguably the first Indian publishing house dedicated to publishing on and for women. When they decided to take this step, Butalia had worked with Oxford University Press and Zed Books in Delhi, while Ritu Menon was a well-known scholar. They started with very little capital but with an urgent sense that they had to make Indian women’s voices heard, through academic publishing and activist works, translation and fiction. They were followed by other Indian presses concerned with gender and social issues such as Bhatkal and Sen who publish the imprints Stree and Samya and Tulika Books.
Widely regarded as India’s answer to Virago Press, Kali for Women published some pathbreaking books such as the Hindi reference book Shareer ki Jankari (‘About the Body’). Shareer ki Jankari was written by 75 village women and sold by them at a special price in the villages. Shareer ki Jankari was extremely frank about sex and women's bodies including issues such as menstrual taboos, shocking some commentators. Till then academic presses had largely ignored the markets for cheap, mass literature.
Butalia and Menon were committed to social change through publishing and, almost as a byproduct, they innovated the ways they produced and sold their books.
Kali for Women published Radha Kumar’s The History of Doing, the ecofeminist Vandana Shiva’s landmark work Staying Alive, and Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid’s landmark Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History.
In 2003, the founders parted ways. Butalia set up Zubaan Books in 2003, which besides feminist books also published fiction, general interest books and children’s titles. Menon founded Women Unlimited. The firms are active.
- Jyoti Puri, Woman, Body, Desire in Postcolonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality (London: Routledge, 1999)
- Paola Bacchetta, 'Reinterrogating Partition Violence: Voices of Women/Children/’Dalits’ in India’s Partition', Feminist Studies 26 (2000): 3
- "Urvashi Butalia: I want to prove that feminist publishing can survive commercially". Livemint. Jun 14, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- "Padma Awards Announced" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2013.