International Day of the Girl Child: 15 empowering books for change

International Day of the Girl Child: 15 empowering books for change

A call for global action to empower girls on International Day of the Girl

by Suswati Basu
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The International Day of the Girl (IDG), observed every 11th of October, stands as a global platform dedicated to advocating for the comprehensive rights of girls worldwide. As we navigate a landscape where movements and actions aim to undermine the rights of girls and women and reverse progress towards gender equality, the impact on girls is increasingly severe. From maternal healthcare and support for adolescent mothers to digital literacy and life skills training, there is an urgent need for greater attention and resources dedicated to the areas enabling girls to fulfill their potential.

One of the most effective methods I am aware of to empower and prepare young girls is through literature. That’s why I’ve gathered a selection of ten books that tell the stories of remarkable women who harnessed the power of their intellect and compassion to make a difference in the world for International Day of the Girl.

What is the meaning of International Day of the Girl?

Together with government and civil society partners, UNICEF envisions a world where girls have a say in shaping government policies, influencing business practices, and directing research and innovations. These examples should become the norm, not exceptions. From October 2023 to October 2024, UNICEF and its partners urge global stakeholders to:

  1. Centre girls in the protection and promotion of rights
  2. Recognise, celebrate, and support girls’ leadership
  3. Introduce and scale-up multi-sectoral programmes
  4. Ensure adolescent-girl-friendly information, services, and systems
  5. Make structural changes to scale up funding for girls.

Patriarchy and power dynamics often favour boys over girls, leading to significant disadvantages for girls across various domains. These disadvantages accumulate over time, particularly during adolescence when social and gender norms limit girls’ access to public spaces and reinforce stereotypes about their roles and appearances.

This divergent path results in multifaceted challenges and violations of girls’ rights, including unequal access to education, limited internet access, disproportionate unpaid care work, higher rates of HIV infections, child marriage risks, and experiences of physical or sexual violence.

Read: Books by women of colour on International Women’s Day

To address these issues, targeted and evidence-based investments in girls’ health, education, violence prevention, and economic empowerment are essential. Such investments align with international conventions and are necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and empower girls to create lasting change for themselves, their communities, and societies as a whole.

Education not only increases girls’ potential income but also reduces poverty rates and enhances overall well-being. Similarly, investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights can yield substantial economic returns. Yet, current funding levels for critical issues affecting adolescent girls are insufficient, highlighting the urgent need for increased resources.

With this in mind, here are some important books worth reading for International Day of the Girl.

Best books for International Day of the Girl Child

  • I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. This memoir tells the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, who stood up for girls’ education in Pakistan and became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.
  • Half the Sky: How To Change The World” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book explores the challenges faced by women and girls in various parts of the world and presents stories of resilience and empowerment.
  • “Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time” by Tanya Lee Stone. This book is a companion to the documentary film of the same name and tells the stories of girls from different countries striving for an education despite significant obstacles.
  • “The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights” by Minky Worden. This book provides a collection of essays and interviews with women’s rights activists and advocates from around the world.
  • Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” by Peggy Orenstein. This thought-provoking book explores the sexual experiences and challenges faced by young girls in today’s society, shedding light on important issues related to sexuality and consent.
  • Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History… and Our Future!” by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl. While not exclusively about girls, this book introduces young readers to the stories of inspiring women who have made a significant impact in various fields.
  • The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story” by Hyeonseo Lee. This memoir recounts the harrowing escape of a North Korean girl who later became an advocate for human rights and North Korean refugees.
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  • The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. This classic diary provides a firsthand account of a young girl’s experiences during the Holocaust and serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of girls even in the face of extreme adversity.
  • Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover. While not exclusively about girls, this memoir illustrates the transformative power of education as Tara Westover escapes a strict and abusive upbringing to pursue higher learning.
  • Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition” by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book introduces young readers to the inspiring, untold stories of NASA’s trailblazing African American mathematicians.
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison. This celebrates remarkable Black women who made history in an accessible format.
  • Women in Science” by Rachel Ignotofsky. The author showcases the incredible achievements and contributions of pioneering women in the field of science.
  • Women Who Dared” by Linda Skeers. Skeers tells the courageous stories of 52 fearless daredevils, adventurers, and rebels who broke barriers.
  • “Wonder Women” by Sam Maggs. This collection celebrates 25 remarkable innovators, inventors, and trailblazers whose contributions changed the course of history.
  • Stories for South Asian Supergirls” by Raj Kaur Khaira. Khaira shares inspiring tales of strong and trailblazing South Asian girls and women. Check out our Barbie feminist book list!

These books offer a diverse range of perspectives and stories related to the experiences of girls and women worldwide, making them excellent choices for books on International Day of the Girl Child or any day dedicated to promoting gender equality and girls’ empowerment.

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This article contains affiliate links via in which we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, in order to support local bookshops. We have not been commissioned to review books and services.


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