March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day – a time when the voices and stories of women are celebrated and promoted everywhere. While there is a lot of conversation around the well-known names who are creating change today as well as throughout history, this month is a reminder that there are women who don’t wear capes and whose names may not be “household familiar” yet that are worth getting to know.
Inspiration comes in many forms, and one person who knows this very well is author and founder of GirlTalkHQ.com, Asha Dahya. If the blog sounds familiar, and you are an avid follower of all things VIDA, you may have already seen the feature on our founder, Umaimah Mendhro on the site in 2018. Asha profiled Umaimah’s inspiring rise to become a Silicon Valley CEO, from humble beginnings in Pakistan.
GirlTalkHQ.com is a website dedicated to sharing the voices and stories of everyday women who more people should know about, and Asha is releasing a book based on the core message of her blog. The book is called ‘Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing The World’, (available to pre-order now on Amazon and Goodreads) which features 50+ women from around the world in a range of industries and backgrounds, who are working to empower their families, communities, and countries
One of those badass women is our very own Umaimah Mendhro whose story reiterates the power of using your platform and privilege for the benefit of others. Umaimah’s hard work and success have always included the betterment of women and girls, as you can read about on our site. We spoke with Asha Dahya to learn more about the book, the women who are featured, and why everyone should order a copy this March!
Tell us the idea behind the title, ‘Today’s Wonder Women’?
I wanted to bring the main message of GirlTalkHQ into book form and build on the idea of how important our voices and stories are in the world today. Given all the buzz around the upcoming ‘Wonder Woman: 1984’ film and the success of the last one, it made sense to utilize the momentum around Women’s History Month this year to showcase the everyday heroes who don’t necessarily wear capes, whose names may not be familiar to everyone yet, but whose lives are serving as an inspiration for others around them.
What was it about Umaimah’s story and accomplishments that made you want to include it in your book?
When I first heard about Umaimah’s inspiring personal and professional story, there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to share it with the world! Her work embodies exactly what I mean when I talk about “everyday superheroes who are changing the world” but who aren’t necessarily household names.
Born in a small town in Pakistan, Umaimah grew up in
As both her parents were active within their community when they eventually moved back to Pakistan they built a hospital and a home on top of the hospital where Umaimah spent her formidable years growing up in Pakistan, as well as politically engaged, Umaimah grew up with a great understanding of what it means to create change on a micro level, but also at a large-scale provincial level.
One of my personal heroes is former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority nation, and through her parents’ community work, Umaimah got to observe Bhutto first-hand. She saw what it meant to be a female trailblazer from her own mother and Prime Minister Bhutto, and now she gets to do the same through VIDA.
Not only does she have an impressive resume in Silicon Valley, for me the most impressive aspect of her career was how she is using that experience to build a thriving business that helps women across the world – by launching education, financial literacy, and women’s right programs in VIDA’s factories in Pakistan, India, and Turkey and by enabling independent artists, majority of whom are female, to manufacture their products with the same buying power an established brand would have
There is a lot of conversation about how, when you empower women you empower not just one individual but an entire community. And through Umaimah’s life and accomplishments, she is proving that is true and helping to make that a reality for so many others!
Who are some of the other women, and what do they do?
Alongside Umaimah, there are a variety of women, femmes and girls who I have become huge fans of! There is Fraidy Reiss who started a non-profit based in New Jersey called Unchained at Last. As a forced marriage survivor, she now leads the only organization fighting against Child marriage in the United States – yes, this happens more often than people realize. There is Mariah Hanson, who founded the largest and longest-running Lesbian music festival in the world – The Dinah Shore – which has become the breaking ground for pop stars such as Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor, at a time when being part of the LGBTQ community meant to hide in the shadows and not be proud of who you are.
We have recently-graduated high school student Jamie Margolin, one of the co-founders of Zero Hour which is the largest student-run climate change organization in the US. As a teen, she and her co-founders (many of whom are young women of color like her) had begun as activists in their local areas and statehouses, and grew their organization through grassroots activism, and now lead marches and movements across the country.
We have Amali de Alwis, the British CEO of Code First: Girls, an organization that is teaching more girls to code that any UK University, in order to fill the gender gap in the technology world.
And we also have Mia Ives-Rublee, a disabled activist and the founder of the Women’s March Disability Caucus. The list goes on, but these are just a few examples of powerful women I was honored to interview and write about.
Why was it important to showcase diversity in your book?
As a woman of color myself, I know full well the value of seeing people who look like you reflected in the media and literature you consume. Traditionally we have seen such a huge erasure of women’s stories, and especially the voices of women of color. I wanted to make sure to have as much of a variety of narratives in this book so that it can inspire a wide range of readers, and not just women and girls but everyone! I am a big supporter of amplifying women of color and this is my way of doing it.
Who are some women that inspire you?
Aside from all the women in the book and my own mom, whose story I also get to share a little about in the introduction, I have been inspired by Sarah Blakely – the founder of Spanx, a self-made billionaire who failed law school, never paid a dime for advertising, didn’t go to design school, and funded her first designs. She saw a gap in a huge market and hustled and worked hard to create a product that is known world wide. She also gives back to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs. I am a huge fan of director Ava DuVernay for her brilliant films that explain race and poverty in such profound ways, and Academy Award-winning Canadian-Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid Shinoy, whose film about honor killings in Pakistan prompted the Prime Minister to introduce new legislation and crack down on acid attacks.
For me, the common thread among these women is how the interweave their own stories to create new narratives that disrupt the status quo to make space for more women.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading ‘Today’s Wonder Women’?
More than anything, I hope they will be inspired to own their own story and share it with the world. I hope they will be encouraged to find mentors in their own communities and know it’s not just the famous women or celebrities that should be put up on a pedestal in our modern culture. We should be championing the everyday heroes who give everything to make the world a better place for everyone.
And I also hope that readers will be challenged to use their own platforms and privilege to make space for underrepresented voices who deserve to be seen and heard.
Where can we learn more about your book and the work you are doing?
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram – @ashadahya
Follow GirlTalkHQ on Twitter and Instagram – @girltalkhq
And head to Amazon and Goodreads to order ‘Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing The World’. You can leave a review and order it as a gift for yourself or someone you love during Women’s History month!