How Storytelling Can Change The World

We already know that being a good storyteller can make you more attractive. But have you ever considered how stories can change the world? Think about it: it’s what makes us tune into the news and watch documentaries; even a movie can make us think differently about an issue.

It’s one of the principles behind 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See The World, a storytelling project and book by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, and supported by Westpac, which has been brought to life in a podcast and interactive exhibition at the Sydney Opera House, called 200 Women: The Listening Ground.


The book features 200 interviews with women from all over the world – and all works of life – sharing what is most important to them. The result is a stunning portrait of the resilience of women.

One of the women featured is 17-year-old New Zealander Eva McGauley, who is committed to tackling sexual assault.

Eva McGauley. Photo: Kieran E. Scott

She says she was surprised when she was asked to be involved with the book and exhibition.

“Sometime in January, out of the blue I got an email asking if I’d like to be a part of this amazing book. And I was just so astonished – I thought it was a fake email, I thought it was spam!” A friend then verified that the email was from a real publisher. “I was just so humbled and amazed.”

Eva’s modesty belies her incredible accomplishments. She explains just some of her achievements: “We’ve successfully campaigned for the New Zealand government to create an online resource, a messaging service for survivors and their support people… We raised over $55000 for HELP: Auckland, which is New Zealand’s largest provider for sexual assault survivors.”

She has collaborated with lingerie brand Lonely, providing information for consumers about abuse and how to address it. She’s also created the Eva’s Wish website, which offers resources including self care tips.

Eva’s work is extraordinarily impressive for a teenager; let alone a teenager with a terminal illness. In 2015 Eva was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but her dying wish is to help others.

She says measures to improve equality are important because there’s still a long way to go. “We live in a world where the prominent voice is male, and where women are generally still viewed as inferior to men… around the globe, sexism is still negatively affecting lives,” she says, citing sexual assault statistics and access to education as just a couple of issues yet to be resolved.

Eva believes in the power of stories to change the world. “To see women from all walks of life sharing their stories and be given a platform to be heard, is such a positive step forward… Every voice and story, the glass ceiling cracks.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the book’s co-author, Ruth Hobday. “The responses of these women and all others simultaneously educated, humbled and inspired us,” she says.

Felicity Duffy, Head of Women’s Markets, Westpac, says Westpac is proud to support the 200 Women project. “The 200 Women: The Listening Ground exhibition and podcast is an opportunity to listen to a series of real stories and experiences that have shaped 200 women from across the world. These women are a combination of mothers, sisters, aunties, friends, leaders and even influencers. The women profiled are real women with unique and inspiring stories.

“In our experience leadership is about listening – to people’s stories, experiences and to what really matters to them. We are proud to have partnered with Ruth Hobday and Geoff Blackwell to be able to share these remarkable stories with Australia.”

Felicity explains it’s in keeping with Westpac’s history of supporting women. “From being the first listed company to provide paid maternity leave, to being the first and only major Australian bank to appoint a female CEO, today we’re proud to continue this legacy and affirm our achievement of 50 per cent women in leadership roles. We continue to aspire to achieve gender parity in senior leadership roles.”

Download the 200 Women: The Listening Ground podcast at rubyconnection.com.au or visit the free exhibition at the Sydney Opera House’s Western Broadwalk until Monday, 6 November (8am to 11pm daily).

To purchase a copy of 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See The World click here.