No woman is a stranger to societal pressure. Each of us, from the moment we are born, is subject to preconceived notions of what it means to be a woman. You should only weigh this much. Your hair should be like this. You should dress like this. You should shave. You should wear makeup. You should have a vagina and boobs. Everything about us is judged and subject to scrutiny. We are, each and every one of us, held up to unfair standards and judgments – often by other women as well.
This, as you can imagine, is especially detrimental to young women and girls, who should be focusing on things like their careers, academics, and other forms of personal development rather than trying to fit into this mold of “the perfect woman”. Haley Hoffman Smith decided to address this by starting Lit Without Limits, a nonprofit program that donates books with positive and inspiring messages to as many mentoring groups as possible. These books come with a curriculum and questions designed to make each group bond, uplift each other, and really drive home the message that what really matters for each woman is their kindness, courage, and intelligence.
Last weekend, I joined the Philippine chapter of Lit Without Limits and recently got our first book, which is Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala.
I’m only six chapters into the book and already I love it. If Lit Without Limits’ purpose is to emphasize the importance of education and courage for girls and women, this was a wonderful book by which to spread their message.
Who doesn’t know who Malala Yousafzai? In 2012, she was just fifteen years old, and already she was fighting for her and other girls’ right to an education in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley, Pakistan. On the 9th of October, when she was on her way home from what she thought was an ordinary day, gunmen boarded her schoolbus and shot her point-blank in the head. No one expected her to survive.
Not only did Malala survive, she thrived. She took her terrifying experience and used it to bring light to the girls’ rights to education. A Nobel Peace Prize winner at sixteen, she has gained a voice and used it to spread the message that each child, each girl, has the inalienable right to learn. From a remote valley in Pakistan to the United Nations in New York, Malala has proved that one child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. She has shown the world what terrorists fear the most: a girl with a book.