This role models post has a different spin, and a giveaway! Instead of an interview, I'd like to share my review of Paola Gianturco's new and sixth book Wonder Girls: Changing Our World.
Paola teamed up with her eleven-year-old granddaughter, Alex Sangster, to interview, photograph and share the stories of 90 wonder-girls in 13 different countries who are using their energy and intelligence to change the world, starting with their communities. These uplifting stories document girls who are improving health, education, gender equality, and the environment and of girls who are fighting child marriage, domestic violence, and child trafficking. And the best part? 100% of the author royalties from Wonder Girls will be donated to the Global Fund for Women, which supports girls' groups in many countries.
Paola Gianturco is an author and photographer who has documented women's lives in 62 countries and has published six books. Her involvement with women’s issues is long-standing. She has lectured about them in the US, Canada, France, United Arab Emirates, and Spain. She spoke at UNESCO International Headquarters in Paris on International Women’s Day 2008. Paola co-developed and taught Executive Institutes on Women and Leadership at Stanford University, and served on the Board of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). She was a principal in the first women-owned advertising agency in the United States and is a current member of International Women’s Forum. Paola presented a TED TALK in 2014 in Dubai. In 2013, Paola was named one of "40 Women to Watch over 40", and in 2014, she was named one of "21 Leaders for the 21st Century" by Women's eNews. In 2017 the YWCA inducted into the Marin Women's Hall of Fame
This book seeks to overturn the notion that "female is the future", and instead focus on females who are changing the world now! As Paola puts it, "many people don't expect young girls to speak truth to power or to be strategic and effective. Their age works to their advantage, their creative approaches, stamina, and resilience catch people off guard and win them". This book also emphasizes the brighter future available to us all when systemic change is made to the investment in the education of girls and women.
The stories highlighted by Paola and Alex show the tenacity and strength of girls who are unwilling to accept the status quo. Take the story of Joyce Mkandwire and Faith Phiri, Co-Founders of the Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) in Malawi. Joyce understood the importance of education and that "there is nothing [she] could do if [she] was not educated". Faith and Joyce discussed their mutual barriers to education, from teen pregnancy to the fear of sexual assault at school, not to mention the economic pressures to drop out and get married.
Wonder Girls outlines some stark statistics about child marriage and poverty in Malawi:
- 74% of the people in Malawi live on less than $1.25 USD a day
- Half of all girls in the country are married by the age of 18
- Girls can be married at the age of 15
These statistics, along with cultural norms that include the support and bride price families receive with marriage, help to make economic sense of the decision to offer children as brides.
Joyce and Faith are working hard to combat this problem, and launched GENET in 2008, to empower girls to fight for their right to an education. Thanks to their allies working toward the same cause, and awareness campaigns, a bill was passed unanimously in parliament, which imposes a ten-year sentence on men who marry girls younger than 18.
The girls and women who have joined as members of GENET are the proof their model works. They dream of being doctors, nurses, lawyers to help heal and defend girls. They understand their position as role models to other young women, and as disruptors to the status quo in their communities. As Memory, a young woman who addressed the U.N., explains, "GENET taught us leadership, communication skills, gender, girls' rights, advocacy so we can stand".
This is just one of the moving stories accompanied by beautiful photography in Wonder Girls. Each chapter ends with a section entitled "How You Can Change Our World" written by Alex Sangster, which outlines the challenges, the changes and actionable items of how you can help by raising money, using your voice and joining a group to advocate for change.
Paola's book can be purchased here.
La Petite Écolière is giving away one copy of Wonder Girls: Changing Our World. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below of YOUR Wonder-Girl moment, when you raised your voice to make positive change for the community. Extra entries can be made by commenting on the Facebook and Instagram posts. Winner will be drawn on December 1, 2017, in time for Holiday Season giving!