Photography by David Wile Credits: Photography by David Wile
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Dalal Al-Waheidi, left, and Malala Yousafzai, girls’ education advocate, are pictured here at WE Day UK in London in March of 2014 Credits: Image courtesy of Dalal Al-Waheidi
I remember the stories my mother told me as a child. Potent mixes of history and fable were shared over dinner, at bedtime or during the regular blackouts in the Gaza Strip, my teenage home. Behind each story was a strong woman, as if my mother was filling me with the resolve of feminists, political dissidents, community leaders and first presidents. These stories—these women—have been a well of strength and inspiration that I've turned to throughout my life.
I returned to them again following the American election. In Hillary Clinton's concession speech she spoke directly to women: "I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will."
Hillary made history. As the first female nominee for a major American party, I feel a swell of pride for the crack she added to the ceiling that millions of women have relentlessly chipped away at. Even as she reminded us of the work yet to be done, I drew strength from the stories I learned as a child about the accomplishments of other female leaders.
I went to school in Gaza and in my old Egyptian textbooks I remember learning about Huda Sha'awrai, a pioneering Egyptian feminist in the early twentieth century. At a time when Egyptian women were largely confined to their homes, Huda refused to shrink down. She organized salons and opened one of the first academic schools for girls, teaching subjects apart from homemaking.
There was Lotfia El Nadi who defied her strict father to become Egypt's first female pilot, proving that women can fly, even in the face of tradition. Her 1933 flight from Cairo to Alexandria launched the dreams of thousands of Egyptian girls.
And I remember Sameera Moussa, a world-renowned nuclear scientist and peace activist. In the 1940s she became the first woman in Egypt to teach at a university, dedicating her career to medical research and organizing the Atomic Energy for Peace Conference.
These are trailblazers I remember, who staked new ground and who, alongside my mother, shaped my idea of what it means to be a strong person. Now, when I tell my twenty-month-old daughter bedtime stories, I pass on these lessons. Beyond fairy tales and princesses, there are women and girls who defied the odds, resiliently pursued their dreams—big or small—and accomplished something great. When we celebrate one another's successes—not just in the houses of power but in the halls of academia, in business, culture and in the home—we set up the next generation of girls for success. That is what my mother did for me and what I'm sure Dorothy Howell Rodham did for Hillary.
Through my role with WE Day, many of these stories have come alive in humbling encounters. I'll never forget President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the first elected female head of state in all of Africa, who told me that if your dreams don't scare you they are not big enough. And Malala Yousafzai, whose courage has resounded around the world, issuing a clarion call for young girls to stand up for what they believe in. Then there are the women without titles or Peace Prizes, everyday mothers who inspire me with their dedication to raising socially conscious children. Or the mamas I met in Kenya, whose passion for sharing their culture through craft is making a global impact at ME to WE.
There is an Arabic saying: ummahat tajeal alddual. It means mothers make nations. With or without titles, women have long been leaders. I tell my daughter their stories with the hope that she draws inspiration from them and grows up empowered, with innovation as part of her DNA and unbounded possibility just over the horizon. If enough girls do, someday soon we will finally shatter that glass ceiling.
Whole30, an intensive one-month dietary reboot that requires cutting out dairy, grains, sugar and processed foods, took the Internet by storm last year, as much for its strict approach (cheat once and you have to start from scratch) as its health benefits. But Melissa Hartwig, one-half of the duo behind the program and a certified sports nutritionist, knows that ditching bad habits is usually a more long-term project. Enter her new book, a guide to rethinking your relationship with food, complete with advice on creating your own perfect diet and strategies for overcoming slipups. — Stacy Lee Kong
Food Freedom Forever (Viking Canada)by Melissa Hartwig, $32.
When Zoe Walker sees a photo of herself in a personal ad that she didn't place, she's confused, but not afraid. Soon, more ads, featuring different women, all commuters, appear. Then, Zoe starts seeing those women on the news, the victims of increasingly violent crimes—but no one save Kelly, a transit cop, believes her when she says there's a link. This fast-paced read will have you looking over your shoulder on your way to work, wondering who has been paying attention to you, without you noticing. — SLK
I See You (Berkley) by Clare Mackintosh, $24.
Canadian-born, U.K.- based YouTube star Estée Lalonde's debut book is full of charming no-pressure advice for creating a stylish life, including chapters on beauty, fashion, food and home, all punctuated with regular appearances by her boyfriend, Aslan, and their greyhound, Reggie. But it's in the sections on people and life, where she candidly describes her ever-present struggle with anxiety and what it was like to grow up on the fringes of the in crowd, that Lalonde gets real. — Grace Toby
Trevor Noah was born in South Africa during apartheid to a black mother and a white father—so the title of the comedian and Daily Show host's first book, Born a Crime, is, pardon the pun, no joke. A hilarious but thoughtful read, Noah's essays touch on poverty, racism and his heartwarming, complicated bond with his mother, who, despite her tough love, shares his penchant for laughter. — Kate Wells
Born a Crime (Doubleday Canada) by Trevor Noah, $35.
Love at first bite
Any Ina Garten fan knows that her husband, Jeffrey—who can often be seen smiling blissfully while enjoying a homemade feast on Food Network Canada's Barefoot Contessa—is the one true not-sosecret ingredient to any recipe Ina cooks up. Her newest cookbook (her 10th!), Cooking for Jeffrey, is an edible love letter to her husband, and to the dishes she's been making for him for decades. It features a plethora of recipes that are perfect to serve at a dinner party, such as Camembert & Prosciutto Tartines, Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken, Challah With Saffron, and Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake. Another reason to love the book: Almost every dish comes complete with a make-ahead tip, so you'll never have to scramble in the kitchen while your guests are enjoying one another's company. If you've been meaning to entertain more, or if you just want reliable, full-flavoured, simple, rustic food to add to your repertoire, this is what you'll want to curl up with. — Jennifer Bartoli