The Woman Telling Young Girls the Stories they Need to Hear

by Fabiana Cacace

According to a research study conducted by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, seven in ten girls are low-spirited about their identities, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members. From the start of secondary school, young girls lose confidence in themselves and start believing their aspirations are impossible to reach.

Anna Bussemi, an English teacher in an Italian primary school, believes girls are exposed to books from a very young age. Society perpetrates the image of women whose lives revolve around finding a man, settling down and dedicating time to their family – all of which can dent their confidence.

“There is nothing wrong in wanting a family; however, women have been multitasking for years. You can be an amazing mother, and at the same time be a driven person, who has a successful career.”


Anna maintains that society needs to start educating girls in believing in themselves and pursue their dreams from a young age. “They need to read, watch and be inspired by strong successful women. Women who have reached their dreams only because they did not stop believing they could do it.”

Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s book, Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls, has been published in Italy after achieving a translation in over 12 languages. Anna was so hyped that she showed it to her pupils- boys and girls skimmed through illustrated biographies of extraordinary famous women; from Serena Williams to Malala Yousafzai, and from Margherita Hack to Michelle Obama.

One of their favorites was the story of Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, who ruled Egypt long before Cleopatra. Her memory was destroyed after her death, out of fear that her success could encourage other women to seek power.

Anna explains: “Her story is particularly symbolic, because women’s accomplishments tend to be forgotten – or simply diminished – much more easily than men’s.”

This book celebrates compassion, determination, curiosity and the art of asking a lot of questions; the courage of trying, failing and trying again. It empowers young girls to follow the bright example of many extraordinary, unconventional women.
The authors show girls that there is a lot more to life than hoping to become a princess who lives her life in the shadow of a prince. Little girls should be able to choose what they want to become as it is possible to turn ambitions into reality, even those dreams can see them travelling in space, discovering the cure for cancer or world number one at tennis.

Every story is also accompanied by a coloured portrait, created by one of the sixty artists from all over the world who have worked on this project, such as Ana Galvañ, Eleanor Davis, Thandiwe Tshabalala, Elisabetta Stoinich and Débora Kamogawa.

Every girl deserves to grow up believing she can be anything she wants, to allow her to become an amazing woman – whatever she decides to do with her life. Once they are given the possibility, the choice, they only need to be given courage to be able to free themselves from stereotypes and live successfully. They just need to be brave, determined and generous.


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