Girl hero project
Written by: Susannah McFarlane
In 2009 I started I writing the EJ Girl Hero series, spy-adventure for tween girls. I had been the publisher of Zac Power and while I loved Zac (I got the idea for the series from my very reluctant-reading son so it was close to my heart) I decided it was the girls’ time to save the world! I was a little tired of the Hermione side-kick to Harry the hero and so ten year-old Emma Jacks, aka Agent EJ12 was my small contribution to tween feminism.
I also wanted to write a story for my daughter, Emma, then ten years old. Emma was as happy in gumboots as she was wearing a tutu and a tiara and quite often combined the two but just as she was getting older, gaining in competence, she seemed to be slipping in confidence. After reading a report out of the NYU Child Study Centre indicating that the average girl’s self-esteem peaks at age 9 then plummets, never to return to that 9 year-old peak again, I realised that it wasn’t just my daughter and I wanted to do something to help.
Each EJ book opens with Emma facing a problem –a mean girl, a maths test, school concert nerves, an irritating older brother – and then she is called on a mission that echoes the challenge of the home issue. While Emma might find stuff hard at home and school, as EJ12, code-cracker and leading SHINE agent, she can do anything. At the end, she realises that she can crack the home issue too. She can be a girl hero in her real life.
Last year and 21 books later, I finished the series leaving Emma Jacks on the brink of high school, just as my Emma started her VCE year. Both had grown enormously in confidence in that time! And, so had my readers. Over the last seven years, I have been blessed by thousands of posts, emails, letters and posters from little girls telling my how much EJ meant to them. Best of all, they told me how EJ made them feel brave and if they were ever scared they would just use their agent name instead of their ‘normal’ name and they could do it! One girl wrote ‘I read EJ12 for inspiration. If EJ can do it, so can I!’ Well, that would make any writer, let alone a mother, cry.
I had finished the series but I still wanted to help build girls’ confidence in themselves but this time, I wanted to inspire them by telling them real-life stories of girl heroes and show how they could be one too.
And so the Girl Hero Project was born, a safe on-line platform for girls to inspire and be inspired by real-life stories of ordinary girls doing extraordinary things. The Girl Hero Project shares the stories of girls as young as 8 years old who are making a difference to their communities and their world – and shows all girls how they can do the same.
While we share the stories of well-known girl heroes from history and today such as Anne Frank and Malala Yousafazi, we also share the stories of ‘ordinary’ girls doing extraordinary things.
Like the story of Jade from Queensland who, at 13 ,started her cupcake business and completely funded her own flying lessons. This year, at 16, she became Australian’s youngest solo pilot.
Or Agi in the UK who, at just 8, shot a short film on her mum’s iPhone to show people a different side to people, like her sister, who have Down’s Syndrome. The film went viral and she has made a new film every year, changing how we look at people with Down’s Syndrome.
Or Amarni in the US, who, also at 8 and with her mum’s help, organised a food drive that delivered over 400 kilograms of food to feed the homeless in her local community.
Little girls can make a big difference right now – they don’t need to wait until they ‘grow up’. From little girls heroes grow – with our help and love.
You can follow the girl hero project at www.girlheroproject.com or on their Facebook page Here