Opening up a book, switching off from the world and absorbing knowledge from my most-loved authors, is easily one of my greatest pleasures.
Today, I’m celebrating a few of my favourite books written by and about girls. All three of these books tell triumphant tales of girls who show immense strength against boundless barriers.
The blessing of reading, particularly in the week we’re recognising International Day of The Girl, is something worth celebrating.
It is also something worth standing up for: According to UNESCO, 496 million women still can’t read or write making up two-thirds of the total 781 million adults around the world. A child born to a mother who can read and write is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5.
Here are just three of our favorite books that keep you informed and inspired to take action for gender equality. It is very obvious from these stories that denying the equality of boys and girls or women and men is the underlying barrier to the progress we need for all persons to reach their full human and economic potential.
Half the sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
If I had to choose a book that inspired my career and devotion to gender equality, this is that book. I read it at the tail end of high-school, at a time when I had offers and opportunity for education and employment coming at me from every direction. The realisation that most girls around the world have such little choice, are punished for seeking an education and are forced into a life of someone else’s choosing, was a fact that would never roll over me. As soon as I put it down, I knew that I would devote the rest of my life to trying to understand the problem better and becoming a part of the solution.
The book narrates a series of vignettes to bring to life the struggles and courage of unforgettable girls and women who are, as the book’s subtitle suggests, turning oppression into opportunity. “This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join in.”
The books impact continues to make its mark in creating meaningful solution. Having become a film and global movement, which you can get behind here: Turning oppression into opportunity.
“So let us be clear about this up front: We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts. That is the process under way – not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen.”
“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human” — Malala Yousafzai
I am Malala is a fearless memoir of the journey that led the 15-year old Malala to be sought out and shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen, simply for advocating access to education for girls in Pakistan. At 12 years old, Malala was devouring the words of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Stephen Hawkins’ “A brief history of time”. She was also blogging for the BBC under pen name Gul Makai. As violence in her hometown of the Swat Valley escalated, schools closed down and Malala’s family was forced to move to safer ground. Amongst all of this chaos, Malala’s voice only became louder, as she continued to speak out for girls’ education.
The book is no doubt brave, however, what really prevails for me in the telling of Malala’s story is the gentleness of it. Malala has been through hell and back on her journey to bring education to girls in her community and worldwide. Yet she tells her tale with a voice of compassion and grace, so powerful that the world has no option but to listen and to act.
What you learn from I am Malala is that courage, conversation and compassion are the most successful opponents to violence, oppression and equality.
How Yoga works
One for the yogis. The book is both narrative and scripture, as it presents real lessons from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali through a relatable, dramatic and emotional storytelling that yogis or non-yogis can understand.
How Yoga Works is a tale of a young woman from Tibet traveling to India to meet her yoga teacher. She is carrying with her the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. She is questioned at the border and accused of stealing, as the male guards did not believe a woman could have the capacity to read such a book. Friday, the protagonist of the tale, is jailed and must prove to the captain of the jail that the book is hers by teaching the lessons in the text.
The book is a beautiful narrative that encourages women to stand up to their innate strength and men to surrender to their natural sensitivity.
“We Misunderstand our world: things that are not themselves seem to us as if they were.”
How Yoga Works is an easy read, one that you will pick up and put down almost simultaneously given its simple story-telling techniques.
Are there any books that have inspired or informed you about the status and strength of girls around the world? Share them with us in the comments below.
Love and Light,