Burkinabe model Georgie Badiel is a real superheroine. While living and thriving in New York City, she was looking for creative ways to help her village back home in Burkina Faso. In 2015, she found it by first establishing the Georgie Badiel Foundation, which aims to ensure that the people there have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. A year later, she cowrote The Water Princess, a semiautobiographical children’s book about a young girl trying to bring clean water to her village.
Through her foundation, Badiel is building and restoring wells as well as investing in reforestation initiatives. So far 13 wells—12 in Burkina Faso and 1 in Liberia—have been built and 86 have been repaired. The nonprofit has also trained 50 women in basic engineering for well restoration.
In 2018, after the success of The Water Princess, Badiel launched Princess GieGie Publishing and Production. Through the literature and cartoon production company, she hopes to release even more stories for children to learn about the beauty of Africa and Africans. She also launched a Kickstarter campaign for her second effort, Princess GieGie–Water Is Here.
Badiel spoke to ESSENCE about her childhood in Burkina Faso and how she’s taking back the African narrative by self-publishing her follow-up effort—which exceeded its initial Kickstarter funding goal in less than 48 hours.
ESSENCE: Your first book, The Water Princess, was published by a major publishing group, but now you’re choosing to go independent. Why?
GEORGIE BADIEL: I wanted to be the sole author of my book. However, my former publisher wanted me to work with another writer, a legendary children’s book author, again. But this is my story. Someone else has the headline credit in The Water Princess. Though it’s my story, I only have a coauthor credit. Furthermore, I didn’t feel as if the company supported my vision. I wanted to use my advance to build a well in Goundi, my grandmother’s village in the center west of Burkina Faso, but my publisher had other ideas. When I went back to the publisher about my second book, Princess GieGie—Water Is Here, they still wanted to give me a coauthor credit. The reason that I wanted to write the book was that my village in Burkina Faso needed water. If I don’t stand up for myself and my people, no one else will. That’s why I started the Georgie Badiel Foundation and that’s why I started my own publishing company. Why can’t a Black woman come in and tell her own stories? I was exhausted by all these injustices, so I said, “You know what? Let me challenge myself and take my future into my own hands.”
ESSENCE: Why are you so passionate about water?
BADIEL: Water is so basic. In parts of Africa, it’s the duty of the women to bring the water. When I visit Burkina Faso, it’s insane to still see sisters and mothers walk for five hours to reach a point of water, and sometimes that water isn’t even clean. This shouldn’t be. In my first book, The Water Princess, GieGie was thirsty and needed clean water. While I was growing up in Africa, my father always told me that I have the strength and determination to go after what I believe in. He helped me understand that I am the owner of my life and that I have to stand up for whatever I want to do to make things better in my own environment. So that’s what Princess GieGie—Water Is Here is all about.
ESSENCE: What is water to you?
BADIEL: Water for me is life.
Badiel’s Kickstarter campaign for Princess GieGie—Water Is Here ends January 10.