Archive for July 2009

The Story of Stuff

I just watched The Story of Stuff, a powerful online movie about the real costs of our consumer driven culture. Narrated by activist Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff tells the story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began.

The 20-minute film definitely makes you think differently about the “things” in our lives, and reminds us that there is a cost to everything we purchase, beyond the money out of our wallet. The true cost is society, our natural resources, and the planet.

Watch the teaser below for a clip from the film, or go to The Story of Stuff’s website to watch the whole thing!

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Child Bride in India Says No to Marriage

Rekha KalindiIt may be against the law in India, but that doesn’t mean that girls don’t continue to be married off when they’re young children. In fact, child marriage is a long-standing tradition in many parts of India, especially among poor families. These girls typically go along with their parents’ demands and give up school, and their childhood, much too young.

Getting married at a young age has many negative side-effects, both for the girls and the community. According to the United Nations:

  • Once married, girls tend not to go to school.
  • Girls married at young ages suffer from many health problems, including premature pregnancies, which cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Teenage girls are also more vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
  • Young married girls are often abused by their husband. In addition, children who refuse to marry or who choose a marriage partner against the wishes of their parents are often punished or even killed by their families in so-called ‘honor killings.

Despite intense pressure by her family, 13-year-old Rekha Kalinda decided to take a stand. When she was only 12 years old, Rekha’s parents told her it was time for her to get married. Rekha had only been pulled out of working as a child laborer by UNICEF two years earlier and given the opportunity to go to a special school run, where she learned not only academics, but leadership skills. She had no intention of giving up her schooling to become a child bride like her older sister had at the age of 11.

Rekha was joined by teachers, classmates, and a government official in a march through the streets of their village to bring attention to her cause and convince her parents to drop their demand. Her parents eventually consented and as word spread, Rekha became a national hero for girls everywhere. In fact, her act of defiance has made her so popular that the Indian President met with her last spring. Her parents have become inspired too – her mother recently announced that all of their children will go to school and will not be married before they turn 18.

What a fantastic story! I love these reminders that one person can have a huge impact by standing up for what they believe in! Read more about Rekha’s activism at ABC News.

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Girl Rockers Talk Media Literacy

Girls Rock! Seattle

This week, Seattle is hosting its first Girls Rock! camp, and I had a blast hanging out with the girls yesterday. I presented workshops to the girls on body image, and we examined the ways in which what we see in the media messages we receive each day affects how we feel about ourselves and others.

I was so impressed and inspired by how aware these girls already were of how what we see in commercials, billboards, advertisements and more isn’t really real – it’s manufactured through things like Photoshop, lighting, and armies of stylists, not to mention usually featuring abnormally thin models to begin with. I wish I had been so media savvy when I was a teenager!

If you live in Seattle, don’t miss the Girls Rock! Seattle Showcase, where the girls’ newly formed rock bands will be performing in all their rocker girl glory! The event is at The Vera Project on Saturday, July 25th at 3pm.

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Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Nelson MandelaToday is former South African president Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday! In honor of his birthday, today has been declared Mandela Day in South Africa, and the former president has called on his fans and supporters around the world to spend time time “doing good” today.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, the institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa which lasted from 1948 – 1994. Mandela was released from prison when apartheid ended and became the president for one term in 1999.

Mandela Day organizers are encouraging people around the world to devote at least a minute for each of the 67 years Mandela campaigned against apartheid to community service.

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When I was a teenager, I watched the movie Cry Freedom (1987) starring Denzel Washington which tells the story of Steven Biko, an anti-apartheid activist who was killed in police custody in 1977 for standing up for his beliefs. The movie made a huge impact on me when I watched it, and has stayed with me today. I highly recommend netflixing it!

To find out more about the work Nelson Mandela is doing today, visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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A Lesson Learned from My iPod

I went for a run yesterday afternoon like I do most days, but yesterday I decided to put my iPod on shuffle instead of pre-selecting the music that would get me through the humidity, heat, and hills. Now, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I’m a serious planner. I like to prepare, organize, and plan to make sure whatever I’m taking on is positive and successful. So for me, running with my iPod on shuffle is kind of like running with scissors.

As I ran, The random songs popping up were an odd mix of vintage 80s (Level 42, The Smiths, Squeeze, and Oingo Boingo), which was working out just fine. I’d only skipped forward once or twice, usually when a song from my son’s lullaby CD or a track from an audio book came up.

But then it was time to face the HILL. The hill i’m referring to is about 1/2 mile of pretty serious incline. It’s towards the end of my run, and I’m pretty good at pushing up the hill without slowing down, but having the right music was key. So when, about 15 seconds before I turned up the hill the next song on my shuffle came up, I was hoping it would be the perfect running-up-a-ginormous-hill song. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t elevator musak either. It was a decent song…an Ani DiFranco ballad with interesting lyrics.

I had to make a choice. Listen to the rest Ani DiFranco song, even though it wasn’t the perfect song to get me up the hill, or, hit the skip button to see what was next. Normally hitting the skip button wasn’t a big deal, but on the hill it was. Who knew what would come up next? Depending on that day’s shuffle, I might end up running the entire hill in search of the perfect hill song, and never find it.

I decided to take my chances. And the next song on my shuffle was one of the best uphill running song I’ve got – Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. Psyched and with a grin on my face, I cranked up the hill with power and speed, all the while happy that I pushed the skip button.

Then I got to thinking. How many times in life are we dissatisfied with something (a boyfriend, a job, a major, etc.), but not make a change because we’re afraid that what’s next might not be any better, or maybe even might be worse? When we accept situations that don’t fulfill us or that aren’t as great as we’d like, we’re basically 1) saying that we don’t deserve to have more and be happy, and 2) missing out on all the possibilities out there.

So next time you have a choice to make – shake things up and reach for more or stay static with the safe and familiar – I challenge you to say yes to life and take a leap of faith! Things may not always work out exactly as you had hoped, but when you follow your gut and your heart, you can’t lose.

For more on saying no to fear, check out this previous SGK post!

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Trip to Chicago for ALA

I just got back from a few days in the gorgeous city of Chicago, where I went to the American Library Association’s annual conference. For five days, thousands upon thousands of librarians and others in the book and publishing business descended on the city’s convention center to see the latest and greatest in publishing and share info and resources with other people who are passionate about books.

I went to promote the series of teen-authored memoirs I created with HCI Books, Louder Than Words which comes out in August, and I have to say that the response from librarians, especially those who work specifically with teens, was overwhelmingly fantastic. They really “got” what we’re trying to do by giving teen girls the opportunity to tell their story and share their unique perspective through the pages of a published book. Very exciting stuff!

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

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Louder Than Words Website and Book Trailer!

Hello Smart Girls!

I’m am THRILLED to announce that the series of teen-authored memoirs I’ve been working on for the past year is almost ready to premiere! Louder Than Words hits stores on August 3rd, and in anticipation that, we just created a cool website for the series which went live today.

Because there are three AMAZING teen writers behind the first three books in the series, we wanted the website to give you chance to get to know them a little better. So, at the Louder Than Words website, each author has her own page where you can read about her book, check out her hand-selected book “soundtrack,” and read her blog. You can also read excerpts of each of the books and find out more about what went into the series, as well as learn how to apply to be a writer for future books. Visit the website here and let me know what you think!

Lastly, I put together a little book trailer for the series so you could hear about the books and the writing process in the authors’ own words. Watch it here!

We’ve got some really cool online promotional ideas brewing once the series comes out in August…I’ll post more when I have the details!

XOXO Debbie

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The Uniform Project

The Uniform ProjectWhile catching up with of my favorite blogs, Ypulse, I read about a very cool new initiative that takes the idea of fashion sustainability to a whole new level: The Uniform Project. Project founder Sheena Matheiken has pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion.

Here’s how it works as described on Sheena’s website:

There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir. The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for slum children in India.

So far, Sheena’s experiment has raised more than $5,000 through her project, which she launched in May 2009, enough to sponsor more than 25 children to be educated in India. She hopes to raise much more through online donations. To find out more and see picture’s of Sheena’s daily looks, visit the Uniform Project website.

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New Social Networking Site from Simon Pulse

Pulse ITIf you love to read YA books, you’ll want to hear about this opportunity. My publisher, Simon Pulse, has just taken its teen advisory board online with the launch of Pulse IT—a way to read amazing teen books for free online, and have your voice heard as a reviewer, trend-spotter, and all-around expert. So if you want early access to great books, join this community of fellow readers and become part of the “it” thing.

If you’re between the ages of 14 and 18, you can sign up online and set up a profile. Then you’ll get started reading by picking a free book each month. When you write a review of the book, you’ll earn points which can land you more free books. The site will also feature an author of the month who’ll be posting messages and responding to your questions.

To become part of the Pulse IT advisory board, visit the website here!

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Honoring Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the RiveterEver seen this image before? If you don’t recognize her, this is cultural icon Rosie the Riveter, who represents the women who took on previously male-dominated jobs during World War II. The woman’s image here is based on a real woman, Rosalie Kunert, who passed away last week at the age of 86.

Rosalie Kunert played an important role in redefining how women were perceived by proving that women could do “men’s work.” According to this obituary, Rosalie was proud of being a pioneer in creating an entirely new image of women in American society and setting the stage for future generations.

In her memory, Smart Girls Know would like to acknowledge Rosalie and all the other “riveters” who were bold, strong, and fearless in going where no women had gone before and who played a crucial role in opening doors and creating more work opportunities for women everywhere.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight a camp created in Rosie the Riveter’s honor, Rosie’s Girls. Rosie’s Girls is a three week camp for girls entering 6th-8th grades that encourages participants to develop and strengthen their capacities and confidence and helps them expand their perception of the range of educational and career options that are attainable in an atmosphere that is fun, supportive and positive.

Camps are located in Vermont, Ohio, South Carolina, and California. To find out more, visit the camp’s website here.

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