SEATTLE, Washington — In recent years, the media has garnered much attention to rising teen activists that are becoming the voice for a new generation. From child slavery to pressing environmental issues, there has been no shortage of activists stepping forward to demand change. As empowered young women, each with a moving story to tell, young female activists are using their platforms to catalyze movements in their native countries and abroad.
Payal Jangid, 17
As a young girl in Rajasthan, India, Jangid narrowly avoided the plight of child marriage. Jangid’s interaction with local activists at the age of 11 convinced her parents to stop their plan of arranging her marriage. Her world view was shaped by this experience and she decided to delve into the plights of child marriage and how she could offer assistance to other girls in that position. Payal took on the task of posting flyers, campaigning, hosting forums and speaking to elders in the village. She educated people on the harmfulness of this tradition. By empowering other girls, this young female activist led a movement that stopped child marriage in her village permanently.
Jangid’s advocacy work spread impacts far beyond her village. In 2019, she received the Changemaker Award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF. This award is given to young activists that are inspiring change and confronting major issues head-on. Not only did she address child marriage but Jangid has also taken on a role in promoting girls’ education, making people aware of their rights and addressing child labor. Her profound impact has been internationally recognized and her success is a marker of advances for girls in rural India.
Helena Gualinga, 18
Helena Gualinga is another one of the young female activists fighting for change. Based in the Ecuadorian Amazon and only 18 years old, Gualinga has spent years using her voice to fight for indigenous communities and environmental sustainability. As part of the Sarayaku indigenous community, she has grown up fighting for the protection of land against large oil companies. Gualinga inherited gratitude for land by learning the Sarayaku ways of living off nature’s abundance. Her fight for the environment is inextricably linked to her indigenous upbringing.
Gualinga has shown that her activism is part of a larger voice of indigenous people around the world. In her indigenous community, she has seen a constant threat to land by massive corporations. Gualinga recognizes that governments around the world take advantage of indigenous groups and the environment. By spreading awareness and voicing a call to action, she has mobilized a ton of the Gen Z generation to fight for climate justice. Gualinga has used her past and her knowledge to vocalize a massive global problem and reach out to others for their support.
Amika George, 21
Although her efforts were placed towards the U.K. Government, Amika George is addressing a global problem for all women: period poverty. Her #FreePeriod campaign calls for funding and distribution of feminine products for those who cannot afford them. George began the project when she realized girls would miss school if they could not afford the product. Her petition received over 200,000 signatures, and even more importantly, a government response.
George organized a rally of over 2,000 supporters and garnered support from U.K. policymakers on the issue of period poverty. The government allocated $2 million to fund solutions for period poverty. However, George’s efforts are not stopping there. As a young female activist, she has dedicated her time to ending period poverty once and for all. She continues to break barriers about the stigma surrounding periods and how menstruation should be affordable for all citizens.
Muzoon Almellehan, 21
Muzoon Almellehan, a Syrian refugee and young female activist, is passionate about education for refugee women. Since her escape from violent uprisings in Syria, her parents were a huge influence on her continued education in the refugee camps. She saw first-hand her female peers drop out of classes to become wives. Almellehan took it upon herself to speak to parents of young girls about the necessity of education. She firmly believes that women are pillars of the community and education is critical to inspiring new generations of women.
As UNICEF’s youngest Goodwill Ambassador, Almellehan’s door-to-door campaigns were influential in encouraging her peers to see the value of education. Her work with UNICEF has taken her to refugee camps in Chad, where only 50% of children acquire schooling. As a voice for women and children affected by conflict, Almellehan’s personal story is an inspiration.
As each of these young female activists has shown, anyone can create a real movement and spark change. They have imprinted new ways of thinking in their communities as well as on the global stage. These women are impactful in diverse areas and are solving global issues one voice at a time.
– Eva Pound