Understanding gender-based violence through books

By Esther Aoko | December 7, 2023 | Africa & The Middle East, Asia, Europe & Eurasia, The Americas | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity

As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Global Fund for Children team members share impactful book recommendations that shed light on the fight against gender-based violence. These books offer profound stories that challenge, educate, foster understanding, and inspire action.

For the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, GFC team members share book recommendations that provide unique insights into the multifaceted issue of gender-based violence. Each book narrates stories of resilience, struggle, and hope.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delves into the intersections of gender, race, and identity. The novel follows the life of a young Nigerian woman who navigates her way through cultural and personal transformations in both Nigeria and the United States.

“It is a beautiful book that allowed me to understand in a deeper way the intersection between gender, race, and migration. It is a sad story of loss and absence but also an inspiring story of power and resilience.” – Rodrigo Barraza, Regional Co-Director for the Americas

When I Dare to Be Powerful by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde’s book is a compelling collection of speeches, essays, and letters that delve into the heart of feminist activism. Lorde’s powerful words challenge the status quo, advocating for radical solidarity and the courage to speak against injustices.

“When I Dare to Be Powerful is a collection of speeches, essays, and letters from Audre Lorde that I always come back to. Her call to radical solidarity within feminism and the importance of speaking out about injustice has shaped how I understand the world.” – Katherine Gilmour, Senior Regional Co-Director for Europe and Eurasia

A boxing training in San Marcos, Guatemala, as part of workshops on gender, migration, and sports held by GFC partner Jovenes por el Cambio. © Global Fund for Children
Circe by Madeline Miller

This novel reinterprets the story of the ancient sorceress Circe and explores themes of female empowerment, independence, and the complexities of love and loss in a patriarchal society.

“In mythology and history, women’s lives and particularly their trauma and pain are often relegated to a tool to advance men’s journeys, learning, and growth. This book is a defiant retelling of an ancient myth that centers on Circe and perfectly encapsulates Audre Lorde’s reminder that ‘women so empowered are dangerous’.” – Katherine Gilmour

Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie’s autobiography, Desert Flower, is a poignant and brave account of her escape from a nomadic life in Somalia and her struggle against female genital cutting. It’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity and a cultural practice that perpetuates gender-based violence.

“Desert Flower by Waris Dirie deeply resonates with me because it vividly describes the injustices faced by millions of African girls in the name of culture and tradition. The book isn’t just a story about Waris’s life, but also a powerful tool for raising awareness and inciting change.” – Amé Atsu David, Regional Co-Director for Africa

Memoria del Fuego by Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano’s Memoria del Fuego blends history, legend, and political analysis to depict the rich tapestry of Latin American history. It’s a narrative that captures the spirit of resistance and resilience against oppression, including the struggle for gender equality.

“Memoria del Fuego is a trilogy that tells the story of Latin America. It made me feel connected to this region that I love so much. It made me feel part of a community marked by pain but also by creation and resistance. It made me know and feel my roots, feel that I belonged somewhere.” – Rodrigo Barraza

Amé Atsu David, GFC's Regional Capacity Development Specialist for West Africa, poses for a photo with Rassie Bah and representatives from other partner organizations in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Amé Atsu David poses for a photo with representatives from organizations in GFC's Ending Violence, Empowering Girls initiative. © CASE SALONE
My Story…Our Story of Rebuilding Broken Lives by Flavia Agnes

This book presents a firsthand account of the author, Flavia Agnes, and her experience with domestic violence. It’s a compelling narrative of self-discovery, survival, and enjoyment of life despite adverse circumstances. The book resonates with many women in similar situations, offering them comfort and motivation. It critically examines the inadequacies in legal protections and support services for survivors of domestic violence and addresses divisions within the feminist movement. What makes this book particularly impactful is Agnes’s unwavering resolve in the face of these challenges.

“The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign highlights the urgent need to combat violence against women, a persistent human rights violation. Flavia Agnes’s work in My Story…Our Story of Rebuilding Broken Lives not only challenges discriminatory attitudes but also encourages women not to tolerate attitudes that perpetuate, rationalize, and normalize violence.” – Indrani Chakraborty, South Asia Program Advisor

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses domestic violence and its impact on women and children. The novel, set against the backdrop of political unrest in Nigeria, highlights the importance of finding one’s voice and the power of resistance against oppressive societal norms.

“Purple Hibiscus’s profound portrayal of gender-based violence and its stifling impact on women’s potential deeply resonated with me. It was a catalyst in my journey to find my voice, inspiring a relentless desire to challenge and change the world.” – Esther Aoko, Communications and Media Intern

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by Bell Hooks

The Will to Change is an exploration of how patriarchal masculinity has harmed men and how it has contributed to gender-based violence. The book offers a transformative perspective on creating a more empathetic and equitable world by redefining masculinity through the lenses of love and care.

“A very nice book that reminds us that patriarchal masculinity also hurts us men and impacts us negatively. At the same time, and from a compassionate point of view, it gives hope for new ways to build a masculinity based on respect, love, and care.” – Rodrigo Barraza

These diverse and powerful narratives help the reader gain a deeper appreciation of the complexity and impact of gender-based violence. These books not only educate and inform but also ignite a passion for change and advocacy. As we reflect on the stories of courage, struggle, and resilience, let’s commit to being agents of change together in our communities, striving to create a world where gender-based violence is a thing of the past.

Header photo: Girls smiling at the 2022 West Africa Adolescent Girls Summit. © GFC

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