#GIRLWITHABOOK began as a social media movement promoting girls’ education after the 2012 assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai. Deciding that girls with books were, apparently, scary to extremists like the Taliban, Olivia Curl and Lena Shareef began collecting photos of girls and women reading books.

Around the world, 32 million girls who should be in primary school are instead working, married, or prevented from accessing their education in some other way. Education is one of the most powerful tools to change our world, and educating girls has profound implications for communities, violence, sustainability, and economics. Most importantly, educating girls is the right thing to do.

Notes from Olivia’s Presentation:

  • When she was 20, Olivia went to study abroad and was put in a middle east, intensive arabic immersion program. She spent a lot of time inside on Facebook because she was harassed whenever she went outside. One day, she was talking to a friend, Lena about Malala Yousafzai.
  • Malala at that time was a girl who at the age of 11, was writing pages for a reporter from the BBC, sharing her experiences trying to access education in a part of the world where girls are often not allowed. As a result, she was shot in the head when she was 15, along with two of her friends and survived.
  • In reaction to that, Olivia and her friend began the #girlwithabook movement by collecting images of women and girls reading books. They started on facebook and twitter and it just exploded with support.
  • The United Nations contacted them about collaboration on putting together a book of these photos, which was a gift to Malala on her 16th birthday.
  • Note: Olivia and Lena created the book and have done most of their work remotely through skype, social media, and email.
  • A year later, the United Nations sent her a message on Twitter about an email inviting them to New York to hear Malala speak at the UN. Olivia and Lena got to meet her and were encouraged by her to continue their work.


  • 1 in 9 girls globally by the age of 15 and are no longer in school and will be having kids in their teens.
  • 2/3 of the 774 million illiterate of the world are women. A woman’s ability to advocate for herself increases phenomenally with every additional year of education, as does their income potential. Women invest 90% of their take home income in their families and communities (whereas men invest 30%)

What’s Next?

They are now beginning a project which is a journey through four countries creating a documentary about the day in the life of girls going to schools in different communities within countries where access is difficult, and highlighting work of organizations that are trying to help. They hope this will raise awareness and thus, put pressure on the right people for change. They are beginning a Kickstarter to raise money for this effort.