Author Talk: Pamela Burke
We sat down with Pamela Burke of radio program The Women’s Eye to discuss her new book, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World, a collection of noteworthy interviews from the show.
MM: How do you choose the women you talk to on The Women’s Eye?
PB: It all began because I was just noticing how many stories about women who are making change weren’t being told. We look for women who are really making a difference in some interesting way. We get suggestions. I had a woman get in touch with me, a reporter from northern Pakistan, who said, “Our stories aren’t being told. Can I do some interviewing for you?” We had a reporter who was in the Congo who was very interested in the issue of sexual violence and suggested we do Maman Nzoli. She’s in the book. Nzoli has a group called Coperma, where she goes out into the very dangerous sections of the Congo and brings women back for medical treatment, and women who are being harassed, women who are going through a lot of brutality there.
MM: Tell me about a woman from the Bay Area who is making a change.
PB: Donice Sandoval is an example of someone who took a very complex issue, homelessness in San Francisco, and decided that she was going to penetrate the problem somehow. As with many of our women, there was kind of a flash point for her. She saw a woman sitting on the side of a sidewalk in San Francisco. She was filthy dirty. Then [Sandoval] started to notice that there was a huge problem. And she just delved into it. She found that there were 7,000 homeless; half of them didn’t have showers. Now, all these years later, she has two mobile buses that have been retrofitted into portable showers for the homeless. She’s representative of women who find a solution and keep working on it, even though it’s very difficult.
MM: What’s something overarching you’ve learned from the women you’ve come across?
PB: I learned how to solve problems. Really. And not to give up on problems. I think that if these women, these ordinary women, can do it, there’s a possibility for anyone to. It’s not easy. You have to have the passion. You have to have the endurance. You have to have the resiliency. But it is possible, if you want to take on an issue that’s really important.