Monday, October 12, 2015

The Power of the Adolescent Girl

October 11 was the United Nations International Day of the Girl and this year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030”. In choosing this theme, the United Nations has stated that “An investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.” 

There are so many inspiring books of teenage girls overcoming great struggles or making a difference in their communities in our library collection. Here are just a few of them:

Girls living in war zones often pay a terrifying price for their survival, but their stories of perseverance are inspiring. I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai is one of the most inspiring stories of the last few years. “When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school. Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York.” At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.” Publisher. 

The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara describes the author’s torture as a 12 year old girl in Sierra Leone when rebel soldiers cut off both of her hands, and her subsequent struggles begging on the streets of Newtown. A mango was the first thing she ate after her attack: "the sweet taste reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her." Publisher.  Today, Mariatu Kamara lives in Toronto and gives presentations on the impact of war on children as a UNICEF Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict.

Little Daughter: a memoir of survival in Burma and the West tells the story of Zoya Phan, a member of the Karen Tribe who had to flee her home at age 13 when the Burmese army attacked her people. Zoya survived years in refugee camps to eventually become a prominent activist in the U.K., where she is currently the International Coordinator of the human rights organization Burma Campaign UK.  Phan remains critical of the Burmese army, and wrote Little Daughter to increase awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses in Burma. 

We know many of the names of courageous women who fought for civil rights in North America like Viola Desmond, Rosa Parks, Septima Clark and more, but teenage girls also played important role in the struggle for equality. Warriors don't cry : the searing memoir of the battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High tells the story of Melba Pattillo, a sixteen year old student who was one of nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. “Throughout her harrowing ordeal, Melba was taunted by her schoolmates and their parents, threatened by a lynch mob's rope, attacked with lighted sticks of dynamite, and injured by acid sprayed in her eyes. But through it all, she acted with dignity and courage, and refused to back down.” Publisher.
Teenagers might be interested in several YA books that tells the story of teenagers in the American Civil Rights era:   Freedom's children : young civil rights activists tell their own stories by Ellen Levine, Turning15 on the road to freedom : my story of the Selma Voting Rights March  by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.

For a list of more age-appropriate materials to inspire girls to change the world, please visit A Mighty Girl.

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