Women who changed Malta

Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, assassinated in a car bomb in Malta in October 2017, is featured as one of the Amazing Maltese Women in a new book that aims to present women who have made an impact in Maltese society.

Targeting a young audience, and covering a wide array of subjects and an even broader historical spectrum, Amazing Maltese Women tells the stories of their lives through simple text and colourful illustrations.

Caruana Galizia is portrayed in a light familiar to many, but perhaps a little new to others. In the two illustrated pages dedicated to the murdered journalist, the reader is taken on a journey which begins from her childhood in Valletta to her most recent works and achievements.

The book itself does not present a vivid detail on what Caruana Galizia had to endure throughout her years battling corruption in Malta. However, even through illustrations, the book manages to cause the reader some discomfort and unease knowing that the tragic story which is presented in the book happened in real life, and only recently.

Those who followed the work of the slain journalist would understand every bit of significance in the simple drawings. The simple illustration of Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew, as he rushed towards a ball of fire, for instance, is still painful to see.

The pages dedicated to Caruana Galizia are full of honest remarks, showing all sides of Caruana Galizia’s personality. As stated by one her friends’ testimony in court, besides the incredibly successful journalistic life she led, Caruana Galizia had her family, friends, hobbies and interests.

Chetcuti draws us towards a more family-oriented woman, with illustrations featuring her as a child throwing confetti from the balcony during the local festa in Valletta with her grandparents. And then we look into the more recent and familiar side to many – Caruana Galizia writing and exposing corruption through her blog set up in 2008.

“Every day she would write her opinions, gossip stories (ouch, some were a bit nasty!) and investigative pieces,” writes Kristina Chetcuti on Caruana Galizia’s blog Running Commentary that used to attract more than 400,000 visitors a day.

Chetcuti, a columnist for The Sunday Times of Malta and the partner of former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil, is no stranger to life in either journalism or politics and she presents a unique perspective.

Sometimes we need to see things through the eyes of a child to face the blatant and harsh facts that surround us. Chetcuti manages to do this splendidly, particularly when she writes this about Caruana Galizia’s investigation into the Panama Papers for children to grasp:

“She was the first in the world to break a story about corrupt politicians in Malta who were secretly plotting to take money that belonged to the people, and instead of spending it on schools, parks or things for everyone to enjoy, they hid it in the far away country of Panama.”

Making a statement about the journalist’s assassination, Merlin Publishers decided to print the book on “Kasco-free paper”. Kasco Holdings is owned by the former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri who has faced police questioning over his involvement in the journalist’s assassination.

The book, illustrated by Marisa Attard, shares with the readers an insight into the lives of other women who have contributed for a better Malta in each of their respective sectors. We meet cancer campaigner Helen Muscat who helped cancer patients and those in palliative care. We also see familiar faces such as those of Malta’s first female President, Agatha Barbara, and Mabel Strickland who established The Times of Malta and her fight for women’s rights.

Some, we may have never heard of such as Clara La Spatara, a much sought-after blacksmith at the time of the knights, or Mary Ellul who had ‘superhero’ strength and saved people in World War II.

Amazing Maltese Women is published by Merlin Publishers.

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