“I genuinely believe in the power of stories and yours are beautifully crafted, sensitive and smart.” —Mariane Pearl on Girls Write Now
This October, we are proud to be partnering with Chime For Change—a global campaign to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world co-founded by Gucci, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Frida Giannini, and Salma Hayek Pinault. In connection with this month’s global celebrations for International Day of the Girl, Chime For Change published four pieces by Girls Write Now mentees. Chime for Change aims to inspire, collect and share powerful stories about girls and women, of which Girls Write Now has no shortage!
We spoke with Mariane Pearl, Chime For Change’s Managing Editor and author of her own (In Search of Hope: The Global Diaries of Mariane Pearl; A Mighty Heart: The Inside Story of the Al Qaeda Kidnapping of Danny Pearl), about the power of storytelling, the need to support women writers, and what this partnership means to her.
Girls Write Now: Why is a girl’s voice important? What’s the single most important issue facing teen girls and young women in the world today?
Mariane Pearl: Women and girls have been deprived of their voices ever since anyone can remember. Based on traditional, religious or cultural justifications, the act of depriving half of humanity of their right to interpret and tailor their own lives according to their beliefs has resulted in a solid and complex system to keep women away from power.
But as human beings, we need our stories, we need to make sense of our lives and of the obstacles that have confronted us. In my opinion, giving this right back to women and girls is an essential factor in redeeming them the most fundamental human dignity. Even though we have seen more changes in the last fifty years than in many centuries combined, we also have a better insight in how much girls are suffering still — just because of their gender. From self-esteem issues to incest, the numbers of crimes against girls is still horrifying.
But, by giving girls their own voices and not necessarily as victims, we also understand and slowly realize their unfathomable power to transform their own lives and that of others. Then we need to listen as girls reveal the impressive reservoir of resilience, perseverance and compassion that we need so urgently for our own survival as a species.
GWN: We are working with our teens to understand what they’re reading in school versus what they read on their own. What is important for girls to be reading? At Girls Write Now, we embrace the classics and encourage girls to read new, diverse work from many of the authors in our community. Was there a particular book growing up that you identified with and helped you during your teen years?
MP: I have always been an avid reader. In fact, I need other people stories to feed mine and to connect with the many different realities that make up life. I think I have always been an idealist at heart, so my favorite author since I was a child is Victor Hugo. If you believe in the power of words to move one’s soul I would encourage young women to read him. To me it works better than self-help books or positive thinking.
There is also a book that was passed on to me from my mother. It was her bible for humanistic wisdom and creative elegance: that is Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
Reading is an essential part of life and there is great joy to be found in relating to a stranger’s story and emotions. There is great joy in feeling part of a whole and nourishing our inner lives with other’s experiences. If your teacher makes you read boring books, give her a list and update her!
GWN: Who is/was your mentor growing up and now?
MP: My mentor in life is Daisaku Ikeda. He’s the President of a movement for peace and value creation called Soka Gakkai, which is a worldwide organization of lay Buddhists. I started chanting when I was 17, at a time when guidance in life is so needed. I didn’t have my father but by reading Mr. Ikeda’s essays, poems, and letters I came across this formidable idea that my life was extremely precious and that I should strive to make it better and believe in what I can bring to it.
This is a message all young people need, but not always what they are learning in school…
GWN: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been a friend and supporter of Girls Write Now and has inspired the topic of feminism, and engaged strong women, like Beyoncé. Why do you think this is so? What is it about her work?
MP: You probably should take her success at engaging people with her writing as an encouragement to pursue your own noble task. The power of the written word can change lives by changing the way we think. I believe that as an artist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has reached our common humanity through storytelling, it’s very powerful and should inspire all young writers.
Mariane Pearl is an award winning journalist and writer who works in French, English and Spanish. She is the managing editor of Chime for Change, a global journalism platform focusing on women and girls that launched on March 8th 2013 in partnership with the International Herald Tribune (global edition of the New York Times) and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Her first book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Daniel Pearl, won international praise and was translated into 15 languages; and, in 2007, it was released as a major feature movie starring Angelina Jolie in the role of Mariane Pearl. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Sunday Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Self Magazine, among others, and has been awarded the National Headliners Award for magazine writing, the Time Warner Women Award, the Woman of the Year Award, The White House Project Award, the AWRT (American Women in Radio and Television) Award, the Internews Award for Excellence in International Reporting, the Vital Voices Award, the El Mundo Editorial Award in Spain, and the Prix “Vérité” in France for excellence in non fiction writing. She is currently working working on her third book, a family memoir set between Paris, New York City and Havana.