Author, activist Paola Gianturco to speak at Women’s Giving Circle

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County will host author and women’s activist Paola Gianturco as the keynote speaker at its annual celebration on Oct. 10.

Gianturco, a photographer and author of three books about women activists, including her most recent work, “Wonder Girls: Changing the World,” will speak to the philanthropic group about her experience creating the book, and share stories and photos of the girls featured.

“I was inspired to [write the book] because I began discovering groups of activist girls literally all over the world. And they were young, 10 to 18 years old, and accomplishing really wonderful results after tackling intractable problems,” Gianturco said. “Nobody was telling those stories.”

Gianturco produced her latest book with her 12-year-old granddaughter, Alex Sangster, and it showcases the work of 15 girl-led nonprofit groups across 13 countries. The pair interviewed and photographed girls in Asia, Latin and North America, Africa and Oceania.

Gianturco, who said she is a firm believer in the idea “nothing about us without us,” wanted to co-write the book with someone who shared the perspective of those interviewed.

“[Working with Alex] was wonderful,” she said. “I learned so much from her.”

“Wonder Girls: Changing the World” includes interviews with several Howard County residents, including Frederique Keumeni, a student at Hammond Middle School; Jessica Kerry, a graduate of Hammond High School; and Giovanna Guarnieri, a graduate of Reservoir High School.

The girls were involved in the group Girls Unite Now, the Howard County chapter of School Girls Unite, which works to expand education opportunities for girls around the world. Gianturco photographed several of them when they traveled to Capitol Hill in 2015 to voice their support for the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, which promotes education. The bill recently passed in the House of Representatives and is currently under consideration by the Senate.

“Wonder Girls” is part of a series looking at female activists of different ages and backgrounds. Previous works include “Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon,” about grandmother activists from around the world who are focused on a variety of issues including HIV/AIDS, the environment and cultural preservation; and “Women Who Light the Dark,” focused on women activists from around the world.

Alison Canning, chairwoman of the Women’s Giving Circle, said Gianturco was a “natural fit” to be the group’s keynote speaker, given her commitment to the success of women around the world.

“[It’s a] global endeavor that she’s looking at and not just a local one,” Canning said. “Empowering young girls to have some self authority, confidence [and] motivation to be involved.”

The Women’s Giving Circle provides grant funding throughout the year to organizations in the county that work to empower women and young girls. One of the group’s major grants goes to the Journey summer camp, a five-week leadership program for middle and high school girls.

Looking to the future, Gianturco said her granddaughter put it best when asked about her hope for the next generation of girls when she said, “I hope I don’t have to write a sequel to this book when I’m your age.”

“My great hope is that their inspiring and important work will engage women readers in the United States and the girls in their lives in supporting them,” Gianturco said. “Many people sort of discount [girls] when they are this young, but the fact is that they are not changing the future, they are changing things right now.”

The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County holds its annual celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Howard Community College’s health sciences building, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. Tickets are $60, and include light fare, dessert and wine. Purchase tickets at womensgivingcircle.org.

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