Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction and short story writer sets the stage for African literature and young women everywhere. She is both a prominent feminist and one of the most prominent authors of African Literature, as reported by Vogue and The Times Literary Supplement.

Ten Facts About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie.
  2. Adichie’s father, who is now retired, worked at the University of Nigeria, located in Nsukka. He was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.
  3. At the age of nineteen, Adichie left for the United States. She received a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.
  4. Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, as reported by Harvard.
  5. During her senior year at Eastern, Adichie started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim; according to Adichie’s personal site, it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.
  6. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States.
  7. Adichie’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories.
  8. Her latest Novel Americanhah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named on of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.
  9. Adichie’s 2009 TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has had more than eight million views.
  10. Reported in Vogue, Adichie loves teaching, and claims, “I want to make it valid, to dream about books and writing. Because in Nigeria it’s very hard; people will say to you, what do you mean, ‘writing’? Nigerians are a very, very practical people. And while I admire practicality, I feel we need to make a space for dreaminess.”

Megan Hadley

Photo: Flickr

Girl Rising
Girl Rising is a campaign to both improve and bring awareness to global education for girls. One of the primary ways they attract attention to this issue is through storytelling in the form of film.

In 2013, the film “Girl Rising” was released. It follows the stories of nine girls from impoverished countries around the world: Haiti, Sierra Leone, Peru, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Egypt and Cambodia.

Each girl’s story has a well-known narrator. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the cast includes Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett. Many of the actors involved do separate philanthropic work related to educating and empowering women.

The film was directed by the Academy Award-winning director Richard Robbins, who also came up with the idea for the film. He made sure that the focus of the movie remained on the stories of the protagonists.

To help the girls communicate, Robbins told Huffington Post, he implored the film’s writers to spend time with the girls in order to effectively tell their stories. While the film “Girl Rising” came before the current campaign to spread awareness for girls’ education, Robbins says, over the course of making the film, it became “clear that we needed to build an organization that was capable of working in all the ways the film alone could not.”

Girl Rising now partners with NGOs including CARE and Room to Read in their mission to bring education to girls globally.

In collaboration with the Pearson Foundation, Girl Rising also offers a curriculum that educators can use to bring awareness to the issue of education for girls who have difficulty accessing it on their own. Factors that contribute to this lack of access are poverty, a reaffirmation of a cult of domesticity for women and foregoing education in order to get married and have children.

Girl Rising is also currently carrying out a campaign called ENGAGE, or Empowering Next Generations to Advance Girls’ Education. ENGAGE is a “USAID-supported public-private partnership” which is “working in India, Nigeria and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, pairing storytelling with local social action campaigns.”

The website for Girl Rising offers multiple options for those interested in getting involved in the cause, be it anything from donating money, to using Girl Rising’s curriculum in their schools, to raising awareness by organizing a viewing of the Girl Rising film.

Katherine Hamblen

Sources: Girl Rising, LA Times, Huffington Post
Photo: Vimeo

Lynsey Addario
With cameras and bravery as their primary tools, photojournalists risk their lives to raise awareness about global suffering, far removed from the headquarters of organizations that award them for their efforts.

Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American photojournalist, has dedicated her life to covering conflict, war, and poverty around the world.

Featured in The National Geographic Society’s “Women of Vision” exhibition, Addario is one of 11 female photographers that have been selected to showcase the female version of “National Geographic storytelling.”

Addario has been kidnapped on two separate occasions whilst covering war-torn places – the first of which was in Iraq in 2004, and the second in Libya in 2011.

According to an article co-written by Addario, she and three male journalists were kidnapped in 2011. Addario’s first comment to her colleagues during the ambush that initiated their six-day long ordeal was, “God, I just don’t want to be raped.”

Gender did not stop the soldiers from beating Addario.

These experiences and acknowledgement of gender vulnerability are evident in the photographic collections available on Addario’s website. They range from documenting breast cancer in Uganda, to rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the refugees of Syria.

Each photograph is captioned with the names and stories of each subject, highlighting humanity amongst chaos in poverty and conflict-ravaged locations.

Within the patriarchal societies in which she has worked, Addario believes her gender has allowed her access to places and people that her male counterparts would be denied.

The motivation that drives Addario’s work is the importance of telling these stories of suffering to the American public, as well as the daily life that continues against the backdrop of conflict.

With a similar objective, Hazel Thompson, an award-winning British photojournalist, immersed herself in the red-light district of Mumbai for 11 years to produce “Taken.”

“Taken” is an e-book and photo documentary that Thompson hopes will address what she describes as an “emergency” on the streets of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

By capturing the daily impact of sex-trafficking on young women and children, Thompson has created “a body of evidence” that cannot be denied or ignored by policy makers who, according to Thompson, have historically taken an apathetic approach to the problem.

“Taken” is also an educational opportunity and a prevention tool that Thompson is working to share with children living in poor villages, who are often targeted by sex-traffickers.

The profits from the project are donated to the Taken Campaign for Bombay Teen Challenge, an organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of Mumbai’s sex industry.

“Women of Vision” can be seen at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. October 10, 2013 – March 9, 2014.

The exhibition will go on to be featured at various venues across the U.S. until 2017.

“Taken” by Hazel Thompson is available on ibooks.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: PBS, New York Times, Lynsey Addario, Women News Network, Hazel Thompson
Photo: MacArthur Foundation