One of the questions posed by the Kickstarter campaign for the new book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was: Why a book for girls? Here is Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s response:
Because we are girls. Our entrepreneurial journey made us understand how important it is for girls to grow up surrounded by female role models. It helps them to be more confident and set bigger goals. We realized that 95% of the books and TV shows we grew up with, lacked girls in prominent positions. We did some research and discovered that this didn’t change much over the past 20 years, so we decided to do something about it.
When I look back to the role models I had, I realize that I did not have many female role models either. I had my mom, who has a Master’s Degree, my dad and two older brothers. I read a lot of books, some with strong female leads and some without. I did not actively seek out books with female characters, I mostly read what interested me, and what I found in my parent’s bookshelves. I enjoyed Winnie the Pooh when I was younger, Shel Silverstein’s poetry, Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series, Gone With the Wind, and many other books written by both male and female authors. In elementary school, I watched Little House on the Prairie, a television series based on the experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a pioneer woman who wrote a series of historical fiction books for children based on her childhood growing up in a pioneer family.
By the time I was 12, my favorite non-literary hero (rather than role model) was Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones’ adventures in Raiders of the Lost Ark looked more exciting than anything else in the world, and although I became a big Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones fan, I never pursued the field of archeology. By the time I finished high school, the two biggest influences in my life were my parents (who ensured I went to college), and my Buddhist organization (SGI-USA) whose leaders and guidance helped me to choose a career path that has guided me until this day.
In my late teens I joined the SGI-USA and started participating in their activities for young women. I was at a small group activity with just a few other young women and we were asked by our young women’s leader to make goals for ourselves. We had to write them down and keep them. She posed this question to us, “What do you see yourself doing ten years from now.” She gave us some time to think about our response. We were sitting on the carpeted floor of the Buddhist Community Center in San Jose. I flipped through a copy of my Living Buddhism and found one of SGI President Ikeda’s Peace Proposals where he had mentioned environmental conservation and supporting the United Nations. I wrote this down for my ten-year career goal: work for the United Nations Environment Program.
My one goal that I had written down at a Buddhist activity when I was 19 or 20 sustained me through four years of college at UC Santa Cruz, two years of volunteer work with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, and another two years of graduate school at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Although I veered off onto a different path for a variety of reasons, I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to set those goals for myself at such an early age, and I hope that we can continue to provide girls and young women from all backgrounds with the resources and encouragement they need to succeed in life and be happy.