British Columbia

Can your smartphone change the world? Yes, says student activist

Erinne Paisley is back on the international activist scene again, now with a how-to book for youth about using social media for activism.

Erinne Paisley’s first of three how-to activist guides for youth released

Erinne Paisley made a graduaton dress out of her high school math assignments, to raise money for the Malala Fund, in 2015. (Erinne Paisley/Etsy)

Erinne Paisley is best known for her high school graduation dress that went viral two years ago. It was made out of math homework assignments to raise awareness about gender equality and education.

Paisley back on the international activist scene again, now with a how-to book for youth about using social media for activism Can your Smartphone Change the World? 

This is the first of three books coming, she told CBC's host of North By Northwest Sheryl MacKay.

"My hope is really that this book can start to talk about how social media impacts our lives at a younger age and hopefully make it so young people feel empowered to use social media as a positive tool," Paisley said.

Paisley donated the money she saved from her fundraising campaign — and from hand-making her graduation dress — to the Malala Fund, a non-profit organization that advocates for girls' education around the world.

It was co-founded by Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai who survived an assassination by the Taliban at 15.

Power of social media

Paisley said the international reaction she received from wearing her paper-made dress to graduation first opened her eyes to the power of social media.

The dress was emblazoned with the words "I've received my education. Not every woman has that right. Malala.org" in red ink.

"One of the things that was shocking for me was how much of an impact this one very small act had," Paisley said.

"To have this turn into a bigger thing and start a larger conversation was something I didn't expect and brought my attention to what social media can do."

Starting conversations

She said it's important to her to start conversations about social media and activism with youth specifically, even those too young to have a smartphone yet, because social media is such an unavoidable part of the world now.

"If we don't start having these conversations at a younger age now, it will just blindly saturate us in it instead," she said.

Paisley's second book Can Your Outfit Change the World? comes out in spring 2018 and Can Your Conversations Change the World? in fall 2018.

To listen to the full interview with Erinne Paisley, click on the audio link below: 

With files from North By Northwest