How to change the world with a ‘louding voice’
Is finding your voice the key to a better society? The Girl with the Louding Voice has gripped thousands. Now, new research shows a surprising link between cooperation and individuality.
Adunni will be heard. She is the 14-year-old protagonist of the bestselling novel The Girl with the Louding Voice by Nigerian author Abi Daré.
The novel takes us to Nigeria and Adunni’s journey from her small village to the big city, as she pursues her mother’s advice: “Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk.”
Abi Daré says the message her novel conveys is summed up by Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” But this education is not accessible to everyone and, to claim her right to it, she must find her “louding voice” and challenge the patriarchal society that values men more than women.
This struggle to control her own destiny is not only about gender equality. At its heart is individualism, the idea that everyone should be allowed to realise their full potential.
Individualism is a relatively recent idea. Most societies throughout history have valued social order and conformity over the rights of the individual. Knowing your place, and sticking to it, has always been regarded as fundamental.
But new research suggests individualism is much older than we thought, and plays an important role in social interaction. Scientists believe we evolved our uniquely expressive faces to communicate our individuality, to tell other members of our tribe that “this is me, not someone else”.
So, is finding your voice the key to a better society?
No. Society needs harmony and conformity. Individualism harms communities by selfishly focusing on the desires of the individual, instead of celebrating our interdependence.
Yes. Society is made by individuals. To change the world for the better, we need everyone to find their voice and be heard.
- Have you ever felt your voice has not been heard?
- Adunni invents a new word, “louding”, to express her individuality. Draw a picture of yourself and, using thought bubbles, create your own words that express your identity.
Some People Say...
“I want to enter a room and people will hear me even before I open my mouth to be speaking.”From The Girl with the Louding Voice by Nigerian author Abi Daré
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Education is a human right, included in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The idea that everyone should be free to think independently and realise their own potential developed during the 18th-Century Enlightenment. Philosophers, like Kant and Rousseau, argued we should “dare to know”, and ask difficult questions that challenge the traditional ways of organising society.
- What do we not know?
- Whether this radical individualism is good or bad for society. The US is often presented as the home of “rugged individualism”, where everyone is free to pursue their dream. Critics say this is good in theory, but that it weakens social ties and divides society. Alternatively, China is an example of a collectivist society built around the Confucian ideal of harmony. Supporters say this creates peace and stability; critics argue it suppresses individual freedom and creativity.
- Abi Daré
- Interviewed about the book, she said, “I wanted to explore the amount of talent and dreams and intelligence that we kill and waste when we don’t allow these girls to go to school, when we hire these young girls and get them to work.”
- Louding voice
- Appropriately for a story about individual expression, “louding” is a word of Adunni’s own creation.
- Patriarchal society
- Literally, patriarchy means a society ruled by the fathers, the heads of households, who own all property and make all decisions. However, the term is now used more broadly to describe any society where men have more power than women.
- The 18th-Century political and philosophical Enlightenment celebrated the rights, intellectual abilities, and creativity of the individual. However, these individuals were always wealthy, white men. It took a further three centuries to expand the idea to include everyone.
- Social order
- Medieval feudal society, for example, was ordered according to the Chain of Being. All authority came from God, through the king and the nobility, down to the ordinary peasant. If you tried to improve your status, you were accused of challenging God’s natural order.
- Behaviour that follows the usual standards that are expected by a group or society.
- Social interaction
- Any relationship between two or more people.
- Our evolutionary ancestors used their unique faces to recognise other members of the tribe, as well as remember past acts of kindness or selfishness. Today, we don’t just have our faces to express our individuality – we can communicate our tribe membership through our clothes, our speech, our likes and dislikes.
- When two or more people depend on each other.