Real Talk

Anya Legarda: Writing Safiya Speaks Up!

A crucial conversation between parents and their children sparks the publication of this very important children’s bookSafiya Speaks Up

At just 17 years old, Anya Legarda has already made a significant impact as a co-author of “Safiya Speaks Up!”, a must-read children’s book that tackles important social issues and encourages young readers to find their voice. 

This book, a collaboration with the non-profit organization She’s the First, is a testament to Anya’s passion for advocacy and her commitment to empowering the next generation. Through her writing, Anya seeks to inspire young minds to stand up for what they believe in and to foster a culture of empathy. She continues to journey as a young author, eagerly sharing the story behind “Safiya Speaks Up!” and opens up important discussions. This is only the beginning of what’s in store for her. 

About the Young Author, Anya

Anya Legarda’s journey as an author began with her deep-seated passion for storytelling and advocacy. Growing up, she was always drawn to books that not only entertained but also imparted valuable lessons. “I’ve always believed in the power of stories to change the world. Ever since I was young, I found solace and strength in books,” she says. Anya’s upbringing in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment nurtured her love for literature and social justice.

Luckily for her, she was significantly bolstered by a strong support system, with her mother playing a pivotal role. “My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader,” Anya shares. “She encouraged my love for reading and writing from a very young age and has been there every step of the way.” 

Her mother’s unwavering support provided the foundation Anya needed to pursue her passions and face the challenges that come with advocacy work. “Having her believe in me and my vision gave me the confidence to take on projects like ‘Safiya Speaks Up!’ and to use my voice for change,” Anya explains. This familial encouragement has not only helped Anya thrive as a young author but also instilled in her the values of empathy and resilience that she now imparts through her work.

Her involvement with She’s the First, an organization that fights for gender equality through education, provided her with a platform to merge her interests. “Being part of She’s the First allowed me to see firsthand the impact that education and empowerment can have on young girls’ lives. It inspired me to contribute in any way I could,” she explains. Through this organization, Anya found an avenue to use her voice and writing skills to advocate for change, culminating in the creation of “Safiya Speaks Up!”.

Diving into the book

“Safiya Speaks Up!” is a children’s book that follows the journey of Safiya, a young girl who learns to use her voice to advocate for herself and others. The book aims to teach children about the importance of speaking up against injustices and the value of their voices in creating change. “The idea for the book came from a desire to address the lack of diverse voices and stories in children’s literature. We wanted to create a character that young readers from different backgrounds could see themselves in,” Anya recounts.

Collaborating with She’s the First, Anya and her co-authors meticulously crafted a story that was both engaging and educational. “We wanted Safiya’s story to be relatable and inspiring. It was important for us to show that even at a young age, you can make a difference,” she explains. 

Impressively, the book has been translated in Malay, Kiswahili, and Filipino, with Anya heading the distribution efforts in the Philippines with the translated version, “Nang Magsalita si Safiya.” She notes, “By translating the book in Filipino, I am able to spread awareness regarding the sexual abuse of minors specifically in a culture like the Philippines that prioritizes collectivistic ideologies. Filipino children should not be bordered by a language barrier at the expense of a chance to prevent physical malice from happening to them.” 

The book not only highlights the importance of self-advocacy but also touches on themes of empathy, resilience, and community support that should be easily accessible to all.

On Opening Up a Discussion

One of the core goals of “Safiya Speaks Up!” is to spark meaningful conversations among its readers. Anya emphasizes that the book is a tool for parents, educators, and children to discuss important social issues. “We designed the book to be a conversation starter. It’s not just about Safiya’s story; it’s about encouraging readers to reflect on their own experiences and the world around them,” she says.

Anya believes that opening up these discussions at a young age is crucial in shaping empathetic and socially conscious individuals. “When children are given the opportunity to talk about issues like fairness, kindness, and standing up for what’s right, they develop a stronger sense of justice and compassion,” she explains. By providing a relatable and engaging narrative, “Safiya Speaks Up!” creates a safe space for these important discussions to take place.

All things considered, Anya does not fail to reiterate the main objective of the book: to bring educational awareness. “My co-authors and I want young children to know that if someone is touching them in a way that is uncomfortable, they can tell their “safe person,” which is someone they can rely on and trust with such details,” she shares. This learning equally extends to parents and guardians as she notes, “We also want to encourage guardians and educators to have conversations with their children about being vigilant and knowing the importance of distinguishing safe and unsafe interactions.”

On Walking Her Talk

Anya Legarda is not just a writer; she embodies the principles she advocates through her work. “It’s important to me that I practice what I preach. Writing about empowerment and advocacy means I have to live those values every day,” she asserts. Anya’s involvement with She’s the First is a nod to her commitment to gender equality and education.

The young author actively participates in workshops and events aimed at enabling young girls and promoting education. “Being part of these initiatives allows me to connect with the very people we’re trying to help. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the direct impact of our work,” she shares. Anya’s dedication to her cause is evident in her efforts to mentor and support other young advocates, helping them find their own voices and platforms.

She recounts a recent time when she had a book-giving outreach at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s Marillac Hills – a women’s shelter that houses girls aged 7 to 17. “It was an incredibly special experience — not only because it was my first time releasing the Filipino version of the book, but also because it was the first time I heard from other girls about how this book makes them feel in regard to their own experiences.”

 “Each of those girls are the reasons why I wrote Safiya Speaks Up!” she exclaims. It is no surprise Anya is driven by a purpose beyond her. 

Looking Ahead and What’s in Store

As Anya looks to the future, she remains focused on her mission to inspire and empower. She plans to continue her advocacy work and is already brainstorming ideas for her next book. “There are so many stories waiting to be told, and I’m excited to keep writing and exploring new ways to make a difference,” she reveals.

Anya also hopes to expand her reach by collaborating with other authors and organizations dedicated to social justice. “Collaboration is key in advocacy. By working together, we can amplify our voices and create a bigger impact,” she says. Additionally, she is considering pursuing further education in literature and social sciences to deepen her understanding of the issues she is passionate about.

Anya Legarda’s journey as a young author and advocate is an inspiring display of the strength in storytelling and the importance of using one’s voice for change. Through “Safiya Speaks Up!”, she has opened up crucial conversations, embodied her message of empowerment, and set her sights on a future filled with continued advocacy. 

Anya’s story is a reminder that age is no barrier to making a difference. It’s one that displays how through passion and determination, anyone can contribute to a more just and empathetic world.

You can access Safiya Speaks Up! by downloading the children’s book and mentor’s guide on

More about books?

Moments Like This: Anna Gomez on Weaving Stories About Life Abroad
Trina Milan: The Power of Reading Aloud
Blessings Born From a Small Bookshop

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