This week we saw the disruption of a major political campaign rally by a group of teenagers on TikTok. The power of youth organisations to disrupt and push for change is a force that cannot be underestimated. In recent years, we have watched as young people have said ‘enough’ to our apathy towards gun control, climate change, racism and more.
Fantastically organised groups of youth have mobilised and made their voices heard over the adult noise of this world. They are disrupting for change in ways we hadn’t thought of, and are bringing attention to issues we should have solved already.
With this recent reminder of the creativity and cleverness of youth movement, we thought it was the perfect time to find out more about five young women activists that are making waves for change around the world.
Perhaps the most instantly recognisable youth activist on our list is the young schoolgirl from Sweden who decided to stage a one-girl school strike outside the Swedish Parliament for climate change. Greta Thunberg’s “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (Strike for climate) became a global phenomenon when hundreds of thousands of students joined her in striking for climate all around the world. On March 15, 2019, nearly a million students in more than 100 nations carried out marches protesting climate inaction. Greta and the movement she ignited, have succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift and a worldwide campaign calling for urgent change.
“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,”Greta Thunberg
A young girl stuck in a war zone captured the world’s attention when she took to Twitter to document the violent siege of her hometown Aleppo in war-torn Syria. Bana Alabed gave us an unfiltered account of airstrikes, hunger, displacement and many other dangers of living in a city under attack. Her call for a peaceful future brought a sense of urgency around the world in seeking a solution to the Syrian conflict. She and her family eventually escaped to Turkey, and her experiences became the book “Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace” (2017). Bana still uses Twitter (with the help of her mum) to focus on the reality of children in war.
I hope my book will make the world do something for the children and people of Syria and bring peace to children all over the world who are living in war.Bana Alabed
Emma’s life changed forever on February 14, 2018, when a gunman entered her school, killing 14 students and three teachers. Emma survived the attack, and with a group of fellow student survivors, she helped organise a nationwide March For Our Lives protest. These students called for legislative change to prevent gun violence in the U.S. This group of students mobilised thousands of other students through social media to attend demonstrations about gun control. March For Our Lives was one of the most successful examples of youth activism before the climate strikes. These rallies, organised and led by students attracted people of all ages demanding change.
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks.”Emma González
Malala is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate for human rights advocacy. When the Taliban took control of her town and banned girls from going to school, Malala started writing about it. Her blog posts gained the attention of the BBC, who published them. She detailed the military occupation and the Taliban’s growing influence in the region. She used her blogs to speak out against their violent regime. These blogs made her a target, and in October 2012 she was shot by a masked gunman in her school bus. Miraculously Malala survived, and her attack sparked a global condemnation of the Taliban and their practices. Malala now lives in England, where she founded the non-profit, Malala Fund, and co-wrote the best-selling memoir “I Am Malala” about her ordeal (2013). While the Taliban still considers Malala a target, she remains a staunch advocate for the power of education for all.
“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women… Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”Malala Yousafzai
Nupol Kiazolu held her first protest when she was 13 when she wore a black hoodie to school with “Do I look suspicious?” painted on the back in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Now at 21, she is the President of the Youth Coalition for Black Lives Matter in New York. In protest of the recent killing of George Floyd, she started organising and mobilising others into some of the largest peaceful protests in New York. Nupol does far more than organise protest marches. She is currently working on drafting legislation for change, hosting youth coalitions, teaching others how to be active organisers and running a political action committee supporting grass-roots political candidates for the upcoming elections. Her energy and passion are inspiring.
I don’t have the luxury and privilege as a black woman to sit in my house and do nothing. Whether I sit at home or go outside, I can be killed because of the color of my skin, which is why, in the middle of a global pandemic, black organisers are forced to go outside.Nupol Kiazolu
These incredible young women have found their voices and shown their peers that they can also use their voices for change. They have shown they have the authority and legitimacy to speak and act on these issues and be heard. We applaud them for taking on the problems that our generation has not yet solved. By embracing their ideas, unique perspectives and social mobilisation power, we hope that together we can finally find some solutions to the problems that plague our world.