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Can Your Conversations Change the World?

Can Your Conversations Change the World?

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Can Your Conversations Change the World?

4/5 (5 ratings)
128 pages
53 minutes
Sep 18, 2018


Being a feminist can mean different things to different people, but one thing it always includes is the belief in equality and human rights. Whether you are talking with one close friend or hanging out with a group of classmates, it matters what you say and how you say it. Not everyone is going to agree with your opinions, especially when you are talking about social justice issues. Can Your Conversations Change the World? provides insight into the origins and history of feminism, how it plays out on the global stage and what it means to be a young feminist and activist today.
Sep 18, 2018

About the author

Erinne Paisley is an activist, public speaker, youth content developer, writer and student. She was awarded one of ten University of Toronto National Scholarships and is now studying International Relations at Trinity College, University of Toronto. She is also the author of the PopActivism series. For more information, visit www.popactivism.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinneP and subscribe to her YouTube channel, Erinne Paisley.

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Can Your Conversations Change the World? - Erinne Paisley


a different type of education

When I was young my parents taught me a lot about human rights. There are even old pictures of me in my living room with Amnesty International posters in the background. Amnesty International fights all over the world for everyone to have their basic human rights fulfilled no matter their age, gender, nationality, ethnicity or religion. These rights are laid out in detail in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

As I got older I learned about the many human rights violations that occur all over the world every day. For example, some people do not have access to clean drinking water. Others are forced into marriage before they are adults. Denial of human rights also often takes the form of physical harm, such as torture or rape. I started to realize that one group of people in particular seemed to suffer from a lot of human rights violations across the globe—women.

This was shocking to me, because I am female! Sure, I have been called bossy, and I realized long ago that girls and women are often expected to act a certain way. But I have never experienced any significant discrimination. And yet all over the world, women are facing human rights violations simply because they are female!

When we had self-directed studies in my middle school, I decided to study human rights violations and women’s rights. I learned that less than a third of adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa and less than half of adolescent girls in South Asia are enrolled in secondary school. Around two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. Globally, a girl under the age of fifteen gets married every seven seconds. Every seven seconds.

I wanted to be able to help, but I didn’t really know how. When I got to high school I began to realize that women’s rights issues also affected me. People had fought in the past for a woman’s right to vote and to control her own body, and for pay equity. But the fight is far from over. Women still make far less than men do while doing the same jobs. Women are still expected to look and act a certain way, and we are still told what we can do with our bodies. As well, according to a national study in the United States, one in four women in college report having survived rape or attempted rape. Facts like these made me aware that the battle for women’s rights still needs to be fought all over the world.

Globally, a girl under the age of fifteen gets married every seven seconds.

British suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote in 1911. JOHNNY CYPRUS

People fought in the past for a woman’s right to vote and to control her own body, and for pay equity...

My friend Preet Walia poses during the Women’s March in Toronto, ON, January 2017. ERINNE PAISLEY

...But the fight is far from over.

By the end of high school, I knew that the fight for women’s rights deals with media images of an ideal body, the lack of educational opportunities for girls around the world, the intersection of race, class and gender, and many other issues. I’d also learned about the power that comes when women’s rights are upheld. For instance, educating girls has been shown to largely improve economies, which means girls’ education can literally end poverty.

That is when I definitely knew I was a feminist.

educating girls has been shown to largely improve economies, which means girls’ education can literally end poverty.

When I graduated from high school in 2015, I thought it made sense to use some of the exciting and celebratory energy around graduation to try and bring extra awareness to the issue of women’s educational rights. I created my prom dress out of paper instead of buying a dress, and I wrote on it in red ink I’ve received my education. Not every woman has that right. Malala.org. I donated the money I would have spent on a grad dress to the Malala Fund. Every time someone asked about my grad dress, I encouraged them to visit Malala.org to learn more about the fight for women’s rights worldwide and donate what they could! I hoped that the money raised would be able to help even just one other girl get the education I had taken for granted.

Then something amazing happened—the

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5 ratings / 5 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    A good introduction to social networking activism, this book defines and explains concepts that may be foreign to the youngest of readers.However, it was too elementary at times, and I found myself frustrated by the lack of depth to many of the concepts and suggestions. I do not have young females in my life, so I am not the best audience for this book.
  • (5/5)
    Wish I had had this book as a teen!
  • (5/5)
    I approached this book from an educator's viewpoint. My basic question to myself concerned whether or not I would want to add this to my personal social studies library for students to peruse as their will. The answer is a resounding yes. The author takes an insightful look at human rights and more specifically women's rights. She looks at a number of issues associated with feminism as well as the history of people fighting for women's rights. It is written so that the average 7-12 grade student could read it and easily understand it. There are wonderful photos and sidebars adding to the reader's understanding of the topics involved in each chapter. Finally, there is a glossary and list of resources that are very helpful. I would recommend this to every school to add to their library shelves for students in grades 7-12.
  • (2/5)
    The author is a young woman who became famous (I infer -- I've never heard of her) for something of a stunt with a prom dress. This book follows up on two others that appear to address the same topic(s) -- basically that teens' social media use can "change the world." The specific cause is feminism, which seems mostly to be focused on child brides and the failure of many countries to make provision for education of female chdilren; the audience appears to be middle schoolers. That said, I was disappointed in the book. I haven't seen the other books by this author or in this series, but find myself wondering how this one differs from what it appears (from this text) is in the others. Yes, hashtags and similar tools can bring attention to a cause, but the author missed an opportunity to tell her audience --yes, even at the middle-school level-- HOW to have productive conversations with others to raise their awareness and recruit their agreement about a cause or topic. Things like "stay calm," "use facts," "listen to understand the other person's point of view before arguing." Instead, the book continues the degradation of conversations about topics by focusing on how to get attention, rather than on what to do once you have someone's attention. My middle schoolers (7-8th grade) are smarter than that, and perfectly capable of making a case for a cause they care about. They're also capable of discussing, with nuance, questions surrounding the appropriateness of White Americans trying to change cultural norms in other countries. I hoped for a book that would help guide those conversations, but I instead got some facts, some encouragement about how your social media use can help bring attention to a cause, and oh, did we mention the power of hashtags?
  • (4/5)
    Young Adult non-fiction is a new genre for me. The author is an activist, who rose to fame when she wore a prom dress made out of her math homework and donated the money she would have otherwise spent to the Malala Fund (supporting girls' education).In this book, Erinne Paisley provides young readers with an overview of feminism, and shows how individuals can make a difference in promoting women's rights. There is a good overview of the history of feminism, and of the major issues women are dealing with today, not only in Canada but around the world. There are suggestions for holding discussions in school, and of on-line communities that young people can monitor. The book itself is engaging, with lots of photographs, and inspirational quotes highlighted with illustrations.I think this book would interest young people in middle school....which seems to be the target audience, For that, I would rate it highly. There isn't enough depth for older readers, but a number of sources are provided for those who want more info.