#GIRLWITHABOOK: In Solidarity with Malala

Posted on February 19, 2013, by Olivia Curl and Lena Shareef

If 15-year old girls are fair game for assassination attempts, then we don’t know when our world went off the edge, but it certainly has.

We were disgusted by the Taliban’s attack against Malala, but also inspired by her courage to stand up to these extremists. In response, we created a project called #GIRLWITHABOOK. This is where we invite people from all over the world to submit a picture of themselves reading a book. It's nothing genius, but we wanted to create a space where people could show their solidarity for Malala and their support for girls' education.

Malala did not discover the gender gap in education when she was pulled from her school bus in October 2012. She has been living this struggle and fighting against it for years, but how many of us were paying attention? It is a fleeting moment when the world unites for a single cause and that is exactly what happened in the days after the attack against Malala. We wanted to extend that moment. We wanted it to last and use it to make strides for women’s education. When the news broke, it wasn’t just Malala who had the world’s attention, it was the entire issue of the gender gap in education. This issue is no longer a series of statistics on a page, but is symbolized in the face of a 15-year old girl who represents 32 million other girls around the world.

Through Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter, we set up a space for people to express their hope. This space has created an opportunity for connection by simply posting a picture. When we saw someone from Colombia commenting on a picture posted by someone from Sri Lanka, we knew that this wasn’t a project anymore. #GIRLWITHABOOK was transforming into a movement.

Lena & Olivia, who started the #GIRLWITHABOOK project to support Malala Yousafzai 

Part of what makes #GIRLWITHABOOK so powerful is that it is so simple. The terrorists have shown that they are afraid of a girl with a book, so we stuck it to them by inviting people to post pictures of girls with books. And it’s not only girls. It’s men and boys, brothers, fathers, and husbands standing with their daughters, sisters, and wives. Not only has the response from individuals to this project been overwhelming, but it has also received support from organizations such as the Half the Sky movement, the Global Education Fund, the United Nations Education First initiative, as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself. Additionally, the UN reached out to their Messengers of Peace, and we were honored to receive photos from Midori, Jane Goodall, and Paulo Coelho.

Within one month of our project, we received over 400 pictures from around the world and compiled them into a book for Malala. These books are representative of the global outpouring of support Malala has received and would not have been possible without Shutterfly, which so graciously donated copies of the book to us for free.

Furthermore, we wanted to thank: Half the Sky Movement, National Women's History Museum, and dreamfly for their encouragement from the very beginning of this project.

On February 16, 2013, we announced that #GIRLWITHABOOK is aiming to raise $15,000 to build a library at one of The Citizens Foundation’s schools. TCF is a non-profit organization in Pakistan that has built 830 purpose-built schools since 1995. Those wishing to donate can go to our Crowdrise page, and the first 25 people to donate $100 will receive a copy of the photo book.

Girls’ education benefits all members of society, and our prosperity as a global community depends on this progress and on fighters like Malala.

Join the movement. Send us a picture at girlwithabookmovement@gmail.com.

Connect with us on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter (@_girlwithabook).

Olivia Curl is an Oregon native and a senior at American University studying International Relations and Arabic. She is passionate about exploring the intersection between women’s issues and security. She blogs on LivOnAMission.wordpress.com. You can also tweet at her (@LivOnAMission).

Lena Shareef has a bachelor's degree in Film and Media Arts and a minor in International Studies from American University. She is currently working at an advertising agency in Michigan, and is looking forward to pursuing a master’s degree in Journalism, focusing on digital media. She blogs on lenashareef.wordpress.com. You can also tweet at her (@LenaShareef).