Nebenzahl, Donna and Nance Ackerman. WOMANKIND: Faces of Change Throughout the World. 2003, Raincoast Books, Vancouver BC.

This is a handsome and big book, qualifying for ”coffee table“ status, but it also a wonderful collection of stunning photos and wise words of women who work with a passion for social change. Nebenzahl and Ackerman travelled the world finding the answers from each woman to their question: Why do they care enough to dedicate their lives to helping other? The answers are diverse but they found a common thread: “That activist women often come to their work out of sadness and despair, because of personal loss, but sometimes simply out of deep conviction that something has to be done…caring gives them hope…that they can change the world.”

Womankind: A Book Review by Theresa Wolfwood

Photo of Francoise David, Montreal, Quebec, organizer of World March of Wome.

Some of the women are famous and familiar to social activists, including the Egyptian writer, Nawal el Saadawi, who recently ran for the presidency of Egypt. She writes and talks about “the taboos of her society – women, sex and religion”. A medical doctor she writes constantly and has never stopped questioning and rebelling. She says, “…even innocent love stories are political. When you have two people in a bedroom, that is political – who is above, who is below. There is no such thing as neutrality.”

Other women are less known and it is a pleasure to read and learn about them. Vancouver breast cancer activists Jane Frost and Brenda Hochachka became messengers of hope to other breast cancer survivors with the now famous dragon boat festivals. Olayinka Koso Thomas campaigns again the horrors, pain, infection, later diseases, and sterilization and death resulting from genital mutilation. She works in exile from Sierra Leone in London, UK; the practice of genital mutilation is in decline, but still millions are mutilated every year. Olayinka believes that education in the key. Educated people won’t let their children be mutilated.

And then there is Agnes Daroczi, an activist for Roma women, surely the most persecuted group in Europe. She has spent her life bringing “into the light a culture that had been trampled and hidden away” in her native Hungary and throughout the world. She has organized an independent Roma political movement to promote the rights and history of this rich culture.

There are 45 women in the book. As I took courage from the stories and admired the expressive photos, I thought, how wonderful; I am sure every reader, just as I can, will also think of 45 more to honour. It’s an inspiration!

Filed under Book Reviews, Donna Nebenzahl, Nance Ackerman