Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

12/01/2017 10:09 am ET

Perhaps the character of Eliza Hamilton said it best in the hit musical Hamilton: who decides what gets written in the history books? In the US, there is no doubt we have a long history of leaving women out of our libraries. There are few histories written about women. For centuries, female writers even had to use male pen names. For example, Emily Brontë’s famous novel Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell.”

The stories we read influence our knowledge and perceptions of the world around us. That's why the National Youth Foundation (NYF) based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and founders Sophia Hanson, Jamee Joppy and Carolyn Crawford, created the Amazing Women’s Edition competition—to promote diversity and gender equality in student literature. They are asking students in Kindergarten through 8th grade to learn about extraordinary women in their communities and to write and illustrate original books about these local heroines.

To further celebrate the contributions of women, the National Youth Foundation will publish the winning book and donate copies to public libraries across the country. They will announce the winner and finalists during Women’s History Month in March 2018.

Another grantee, Kausalya Raman, agrees that books are forms of power. Kausalya started an organization called English Kadhavu, which provides supplemental English learning materials for students in Tamilnadu, India. Learning English can help expand the higher education and career opportunities available. The materials distributed by English Kadhavu include books and activities, all of them aimed at helping young students build a foundation in English.

As we’ve seen time and time again, access to language and written communication can offer a voice - and thus more means of inclusion for traditionally marginalized groups. Today we honor 14 grantees who are using language, literature and more as a force for inclusion and equality. These everyday heroes are harnessing their power to make a positive difference in their communities and we hope they inspire you to think about what you can do in your own community!

Fortress of Hope Africa (FOHA) empowers adolescent girls, socially and economically, in Nairobi, Kenya. They offer financial literacy and business education to the girls in and out of school in the Dandora and Kayole slums.

Students Earn Money in Vegetable Production in Kétou, Benin, West Africa aims to improve the living conditions of students in order to reduce the university drop out rate. Students are trained in farming techniques and provided with the material to produce vegetables on a farm in Kétou.

Energy Briquette Production in Nairobi, Kenya manufactures fuel briquettes, a clean and affordable alternative cooking fuel from urban organic wastes.

Turning Point Resolutions in Seeta, Mukono, Uganda equips individuals with the skills to engage in activities to support their livelihoods. They offer counseling and participants can pursue courses in a range of activities including agriculture, financial management, tailoring, hairdressing, baking and jewelry making.

Ms. Mistah Productions, located in New York City, is taking on the “N” word through an original, short film. Through social media, city, state and worldwide, free distribution, founder Denise Coles hopes to bring positive change.

Education & Resource Centre for Children increases access to textbooks, tutors and mentors for less privileged children in Dippakunda, Serekunda, Gambia. Their ultimate goal is enable children to succeed through building confidence and courage in the face of challenges.

Hope for the Helpless, located in Manchester, England, runs an outreach service for women and girls who have experienced domestic abuse.

Girls Sanitary in Schools allows girls in Rumphi, Malawi who are struggling to acquire sanitary pads to learn how to make their own.

Daniel Marita started the Sustainable Blight Tamer Project, which uses natural herbs to find a remedy against tomato blight disease. The project aims to revive business for peasant horticulture and tuber plant farmers of Kakamega County, Kenya.

Jinja Single Mothers Development Group equips single and vulnerable mothers in Jinja, Uganda with tailoring skills to address poverty and create positive change for their families.

Green Sanipad Initiatives (GSI): The “Salama” Safer Pads Project offers short and long term menstrual hygiene management to marginalized and financially depressed rural girls. They teach girls ages 10 to 19 years old in the Muheza District, Tanzania about menstruation.

Nutrition Schools For Healthy Children in Chogsia, Ghana provides education and training to mothers of children under five on the nutrition requirements of children, food hygiene practices and breastfeeding.

Who will tell your story? If you are looking to make positive change in your community, we hope you apply for a grant with The Pollination Project!

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