Shahidah Janjua was an unassuming and inspirational writer, feminist and environmental activist who passed away on 28th March 2020 as a result of a long-term illness.
Her warmth and passion for social justice made her a role model for many, both in Ireland, the UK and further afield. Her writings often gave an expression to the beauty and desolation of the world around her.
Shahidah Janjua was born in Karachi, Pakistan on 29th December 1949. She was the daughter of Air Commodore MK Janjua, the first Commander in Chief of the Pakistani Air Force. After her family were exiled to London for opposing corruption, Shahidah became active in the student protests in London in the late 1960’s, protesting against the Vietnam War, South African Apartheid and the emerging Fascist movement in Britain.
She described her English teacher as ‘saving her life’, providing an escape route into books, poetry and writing. In 1989 she came to Ireland to study, achieving First Class Honours in Humanities (Majoring in Literature) at the University of Ulster.
Shahidah became involved in the women’s movement at an early age and spent more than 30 years campaigning for women’s rights, during which time her list of achievements were many.
She was active on the Management Committee of Downtown Women’s Centre in Belfast. It was here that Shahidah initiated, and then with other women, started the first Survivors Support Group in the North of Ireland.
Shahidah was a founder member of ‘Women Into Politics’ which subsequently developed into the Women’s Coalition, a political platform for women which was independent of all sectarian interests and male agendas.
Shahidah also co-wrote the script and appeared in a film on Child Sexual Abuse, as well as co-presenting a weekly programme on Belfast Community Radio on issues of violence against women.
Returning to the UK in 1995, Shahidah became a qualified Narrative Therapy Counsellor, and worked at Heeley Women’s Counselling Service, where she trained women as volunteer counsellors. She was also a founder member of the first Asian Women’s Refuge in Sheffield (Ashiana – meaning safe haven).
From 1998 to 2004 for Shahidah was an active member of Justice for Women, a feminist campaigning organisation that supported and advocated on behalf of women who fought back against violent male partners.
In 2001 Shahidah became a member, and later Chairperson (2003), of the Board of Rape Crisis England and Wales.
In 2003 Shahidah was awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. The annual prize is awarded to an individual woman who has, through writing or campaigning, raised awareness of violence against women and children.
In 2005 Shahidah returned to Ireland, moving to Castlegregory, Co Kerry, where she worked as a Community Development Worker for various community organisations, including the Open Door Network, Kerry's Response to Violence Against Women, Listowel Family Resource Centre, Tralee Community Development Project and Partnership Tralee. In more recent years, Shahidah was a member of the Kerry Women’s Interactive Network, and also found time to volunteer as a trainer and counsellor at a number of local support services, including Tralee International Resource Centre and Samaritans.
In 2019 Shahidah was instrumental in the Twinning agreement between Tralee and the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour.
Despite her illness, and right up to her untimely departure, Shahidah was Chairperson of, and was campaigning to establish the new Kerry Women’s Resource Centre. She was also an active member of Deep Green Resistance, a global campaigning organisation to halt the destruction of the planet through climate change.
Since 2010, Shahidah worked full time as a writer, publishing a number of poems, articles and books. This site is dedicated to Shahidah’s writings, of which there is a large, as yet unpublished catalogue. Shahidah had just chosen a draft selection of poems for her next poetry and prose book, and had just completed a novel to be published later in 2020.
Please visit Shahidah's site again to hear updates about book releases.