The New Zealand-based dream team that is Ruth Hobday and Geoff Blackwell are book editors on a mission. Their aim: to create international book projects rich in humanitarian spirit. One of their latest projects is an inspiring book called 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See the World. Previous publications include titles Wisdom, Love, Rainforest, Nelson Mandela: Prison Letters, to name a few. While 200 Women features well known writers, activists, actors, and judges including Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, Gillian Anderson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ruth Ginsberg, the book also includes women who are not well known. Hobday and Blackwell sought out to find diversity and authenticity by interviewing women from many different backgrounds and countries by asking each the same five questions.
- What really matters to you?
- What brings you happiness?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What would you change if you could?
- Which single word do you most identify with?
I am writing this because I somehow, along with my co-founder of The RAP Project (Raising Awareness and Prevention), am featured in 200 Women. Deana Puccio and I began our RAP work in 2012, speaking to teenagers, parents and teachers about rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, consent, and openly discussing how social media and online porn are influencing attitudes, behaviors, body image and expectations. We aim to empower young people, as mothers, mentors and presenters. We are now in over 150 schools, the authors of Sex, Likes and Social Media: Talking to Teens in the Digital Age published by Random House/Ebury and, not surprisingly in this current climate, quickly expanding. I remember when we were putting together our first presentation reading a profound and extraordinary editorial written by South African Desmond Tutu on the issue of rape. He wrote passionately and persuasively about how important it is to discuss sexual assault with young people, just as we might bring up drugs, guns or bullying at the dinner table.
Coincidentally, Deana and I are featured in 200 Women because of another inspiring South African named Sahm Venter. Venter and I worked together as journalists at Associated Press Television. I worked in London, and she in Johannesburg. Brave and ballsy, she traveled to war zones as well as covered the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s transition to democracy. She now works as the senior researcher at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. At one point, amidst the pressures of working in the field, she met a young orphan named Nomvula Sikhakhane who she subsequently raised with her partner and fellow journalist Claude Colart. The child had a traumatic childhood, and suffered abuse. But, with love, strength and stability, Sahm and Claude are now the proud guardians of Sikhakhane who is now a successful chef. 200 Women also features her courageous story.
Working at APTN, I met the most extraordinary journalists. Some of our colleagues died tragically in the field, and are still missed and remembered. Others, moved on or remain in AP newsrooms around the world. I am so proud to be included with my former APTN colleagues, Sana Issa, Elida Lawton O’Connell, Safia Shah and Sahm Venter in 200 Women. Their stories, side by side with each woman in this book, share something extraordinary. Be it by establishing a unique, contextualized Middle Eastern news agency, or by working with Kosovan women recovering from rape during the Balkan war or assisting Afghani refugees as well as promoting its rich culture and history, these women exhibit elegance, strength while sharing their passionate and painful stories
200 Women is available now. A book launch and photography exhibition is planned at the Pen and Brush Gallery in lower Manhattan from mid-May 2018.