International Women’s Day is a celebration of how much women have achieved across the world, both collectively and . While we commend these women across different walks of life, let’s take a moment to also acknowledge those who have worked towards bridging that gap. These are the women are those who took a stand, raised their voice, and made sure they were heard—ensuring that they are paving the way for present and future generations. Here are eight young female activists under thirty who are voicing their opinions, for a better future for you and me:
Who: Amika George
Where: United Kingdom
Her voice: The 19-year-old British Indian girl launched the #FreePeriods campaign in 2017, while completing her A levels in school. An initiative that fights against period poverty, she had the idea when she read report on how girls from low-income households couldn’t afford menstrual products. Within 18 months of launching the campaign, George was awarded the Campaign Award at The Goalkeepers 2018 Global Goals Award from Bill Gates. In conversation with the Evening Standard, George said, “It seemed abhorrent to me that there were children creating almost primitive, makeshift solutions such as socks stuffed with stolen toilet paper, or newspaper, and I was disgusted that no help was being given to them. These children would face enormous anxiety while sitting in lessons, fearful that they’d bled onto their uniforms, so the easiest solution was often simply to miss school.”
As of September 2018, her campaign has garnered more than 180,000 signatures and petitions the Government to ensure that children from low-income households on free school meals are also offered free menstrual products.
Who: Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Their voice: The two sisters started their fight against plastic bags in Indonesia at the age of 10 and 12 and founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags. Starting off as a local movement powered by the youth and BBPB now has even extended itself to international waters. Raising awareness about the waste issue in Bali, the team raises awareness through school presentations and workshop, organises beach clean-ups, and also provides alternative solutions to plastic bags. The movement has now become a global initiative and the BBPB team has taken their campaign across twelve countries in eight different languages.
“We wanted to create positive change and we didn’t want to wait until we were adults to do so. Born and raised on the island of Bali, we saw enough challenges surrounding us, like over-development and infrastructure. But the plastic waste problem was the one that stood out the most to us. Plastic is everywhere – in the streets, rivers, rice fields, beaches and ocean. We wanted to stop it. Saying no to single-use plastic bags was an easy first step, in our minds. And we still believe it is,” Melati told an online publication. The teenager duo have also been named as part of Forbes top 10 most inspiring women in Indonesia.
Who: Payal Jangid
Her voice: This teenager from a small village called Hinsla started a movement that not only changed her life, but also changed lives of children around her. Encouraging children to speak up against injustice and violence carried out against them, Jangid works alongside a children’s council in order to create a child-friendly society for all. At 14, she not only put an end to several child marriages, but also began changing the mindset of people when it came to children. Talking to Youth Ki Awaaz, Jangid said, “Until and unless children themselves realise that they have some rights, they won’t feel unyoked. A child must have some agency which enables her/him to decide.” In 2013, the young social activist was chosen as the jury for World’s Children’s Prize by the Swedish council. “Out of everyone else, I was chosen to be the one who escorts the Queen to the event. It made me feel special,” she said in the same interview.
Along with fighting for children’s rights, Jangid also encourages the women in her village to voice their opinions and not conform to gender roles.
Photograph: World’s Children Prize
Who: Emma Gonzalez
Her voice: 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez is your not-so-average teenager. Her life changed forever when seventeen students and teachers died at her school, the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, during a mass shooting. In an interview with Variety she recalled, “I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t want to go on my phone to check and see if anything was real because I was in a complete state of denial.” Three days after the shooting, Gonzalez converted the loss of her loved ones into a movement; she, along with the other Parkland survivors, founded a non-profit organisation, March for Our Lives which pushes for stricter gun laws.
Who: Marley Dias
Her voice: An avid reader, Marley Dias was just 11-years-old when she realised that there was a serious lack of representation in the books she read, and that’s when her journey began. In late 2015, she went on to launch a campaign, #1000BlackGirlBooks—a program that collected and donated 1,000 books that featured black girls as the protagonist of the story. Accumulating over 9,000 books since then, Dias has now even landed a book deal of her own. Speaking at the Annual Forbes Summit in 2017 she said, “I’m working to create a space where it feels easy to include and imagine black girls and make black girls like me the main characters of our lives.”
Photograph: Getty Images
Who: Sophie Cruz
Where: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Her voice: The daughter of two undocumented Mexican immigrants in America, Sophie Cruz first made headlines in 2015 after her letter to Pope Francis caught everyone’s eye. Stating that he talk to President Obama and the Congress to legalise her parents. Not long after, she was invited to meet President Obama at the White House. In an interview with the Washington Post, Sophie’s father Raul Cruz said, “She lives it every day. She seem families get separated, and we always tell her the truth when she asks why.” Unlike her parents, Sophie and her little sister are citizens of the United States. Post that, Sophie has continued to inform and educate people around her about immigration and how she could possibly be separated from her parents if a clear path to citizenship is not granted. In early 2017, the six-year-old spoke in defence of immigrants at the Women’s March on Washington telling the crowd to make “a chain of love to protect our families” in her emotional speech.
Photograph: Getty Images
Who: Malala Yousafzai
Her voice: A known name across the globe, Malala Yousafzai’s fight began when in 2008 the Taliban took control of the town she lived in—extremists had banned the use of a lot of things, including girls attending school. Post this Yousafzai constantly spoke out for the right for women’s education which made her a target. In 2012 she was shot on the left side of her head—but that did not stop her from making a difference.
A survivor and fighter, Yousafzai came back with a fire in her heart to make a voice heard. After months of surgeries and rehabilitation, along with her father in 2014 she established the Malala fund—a charity that’s dedicated to give girls the opportunity to learn. Thanks to the global recognition of her work, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. Now completing her studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford, she continues to fight for the betterment of quality education for girls.
“Girls have the power to boost economies, create jobs, make communities safer and drive industry.On #InternationalWomensDay, pledge to take action so every girl can learn and earn…” she Tweeted today.
Who: Sonita Alizadeh
Her voice: Child bride Sonita Alizadeh was to be sold into marriage at the mere age of 16—but she decided to rebel. That wasn’t the first time it happened, her family even tried selling her when she was just ten. Rapping her way to freedom, the first time she wore a bridal gown wasn’t for her wedding but for her music video, “Daughters For Sale”. Ever since then, she has been advocating against child marriage and has also said she wants to become a rapping lawyer. In an interview with Mashable Sonita said, “As I have been advocating to end child marriage, I’ve been meeting and learning about all the incredible young people out there doing the work in their countries and communities to help girls. It is very inspiring! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make change. I think that it starts with a decision to be brave and bold — to really do something. And young people are doing it.”
“I have many dreams that I am working towards right now. The first is to help end child marriage. Although the rate of child marriages around the world has decreased from 15 million to 12 million every year, we still have a long way to go. That is still 12 million dreams lost. 12 million futures gone. My dream is for every girl to reach her full potential. I am currently working towards that dream through my advocacy,” she added.