"There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." - Madeleine Albright
As educated women in New York City and Washington, DC we thought we were well versed on women's rights and the struggles of women around the world. We were wrong. We had no idea that women make up 70% of the people who live in poverty around the world. Nor that less than 7% of philanthropic investment goes directly to women and girls. Women make up more than half the population of the world and yet widespread gender-based discrimination persists.
As women who have essentially won the life lottery, we feel it's our responsibility share these stories with you and shine a light on the women who have devoted their lives to empowering other women around the world. They prove that women themselves are the solution.
This reading list will crush you, move you, and we hope, inspire you to lift up the women next to you, or maybe those around the world.
If you read only one book on this list, make it this one. Written by two New York Times reporters, Half the Sky is a life changing book and documentary series that brings to the surface the widespread oppression of women around the world and shows how women are also the solution. Statistics like 70% of the world's poor are women hit you like a bucket of cold water. There's no way you won't be moved to act. It's proof that empowering women and girls will literally change the world.
Start by watching the documentary series on Netflix tonight. The Worn team did, and we sat at our desks changed the next morning.
Yeonmi Park is a refugee who escaped from North Korea, only to have her freedom taken away from her again when she was sold to a Chinese farmer. Through her own strength and resilience she gained her freedom and eventually made it to South Korea, where her journey was just beginning. Ms. Park now lives in New York City where she speaks about her journey.
Start by hearing her tell her story on NPR here.
Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history at 17 when she was awarded the prize last year. Her courage, determination, and eloquence helped her survive a gunshot to the head by the Taliban for promoting girls' education. She is a once in a generation figure who has already changed the world and has another 60 years or more to go. This is the story of her life in the Swat Valley of Pakistan and what lead her to be a leader for equal education.
Start by watching her Nobel Prize acceptance speech here.
Zainab Salbi is a survivor of war, but she tells a different side of the story then the stereotypical images we’re used to seeing in the news - she was the daughter of Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. Salbi survived war and tyranny in Iraq and went on to found her own organization, Women for Women International that works with female survivors of wars. “War is about the silence of humanity.” she says.
Start by watching her Ted talk here.
Recommended by Melinda Gates, However Long the Night is the story of Molly Melching, a graduate student from Illinois who started out as an exchange student in Senegal and spent the next forty years working for women's rights in Africa through her non-profit Tostan. It's a reminder that one individual refusing to accept the status quo can make a difference.
Leymah Gbowee won a Nobel Prize in 2011 along with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman for "their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." Gbowee lead a women's peace movement that contributed directly to the end of war and peace in Liberia and lead the way for the first female President of that country. In the words of Melinda Gates, "it is an amazing tale of a group of women coming together to change the course of a country’s history—and it’s also the inspiring story of how Leymah overcame her own doubts and fears and found the courage to lead them."
If you enjoyed this list, you might also like "The Reading List for Badass Business Women."