Picture from DFID – UK Department for International Development
How to talk about youth empowerment without mentioning the very impressive Malala? She is probably one of the most famous examples of what changes can the youth create. This 21 years old pakistani girl is a women rights activist who obtained the Nobel Prize in 2014. And that couldn’t be more deserved: When the little girl was only 11, she denounced the destruction of schools and the oppressive sharia laws by Talibans. After several death treats, Malala survived a terrorist attacked in which she got headshot on a school bus. Strong and resilient, the young woman wrote a book about her story and got several prizes for her bravery. Now living in Manchester with her family but hoping to go back to her native country some day, she keeps on fighting against youth oppression and for the right to education.
Picture from chacunsoncafé
It is impossible not to know this Swedish 16 years old girl who protested against climate change last year. After having written a challenging article about climate change for the Swedish contest Svenska Dagbladet, Thunberg got noticed and kept on acting for the cause she believes in. She went on a strike on her first day of school last year to call for a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions in her country, and thus became an ecological figure worldwide. After her protest, the international youth followed her lead and started demonstrating in public places as well. Indeed, in November and December 2018, more than 20 000 students went on a strike in at least 270 cities in countries such as Germany, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, the UK, the US, and the list goes on. Although her actions have been vividly criticized by several media which are alleging her of being a manipulated marketing tool, since Thunberg’s mother revealed her daughter had Asperger syndrom, the young lady keeps going and is now nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Picture from Ideas Ted https://ideas.ted.com/maya-penn-entrepreneur/
Born in 2000, Maya Penn is an American entrepreneur and artist who started her own company when she was 8. Ambitious and original, her business “Maya’s Ideas” provides environmentally sustainable, fashionable accessories and clothing. As an activist, Penn found a way to combine her true passion with her beliefs. This is how her desire to make a change in the fashion industry led her to become a CEO at a very young age, with a great specificity: 10% of profits made go to local and global charities and environmental nonprofit organizations. Today, at 19 years old, Penn gives Ted Talks and spread eco-consciousness and ambition all over the world. Check out her website, you may want to get one of her stylish necklaces.
Picture from The Ocean Cleanup https://www.theoceancleanup.com/media-gallery/#&gid=8&pid=4
Born in 1994, Boyan Slat is a Dutch inventor who dropped out of aerospace engineering studies to create his own NGO: The Ocean Cleanup. At 24, the young man has developed a revolutionary technique to curb plastic pollution in the ocean depths. His ambition: removing 90% of plastic waste in seas before 2040. His story started when he was 16 in Greece, when he noted there were more waste than fish in the sea. Slat got obsessed with this idea, and tried to think of any way to solve the issue. This is what led him to create System 001, which uses the circulating ocean currents to gather the waste before removing them from water. Simple but genius, right? Thanks to massive donations and hardworking people, Ocean Cleanup is now operating, and needed more than ever.
At only 20 years old, Aranya Johar became the new figure of Indian feminism. In the country with the highest rate of rape, Johar fights for gender equality through her art. By using poetry and slam to talk about female condition in her country, the young lady breaks society’s taboos on female bodies, periods, mental health, sexual intercourses and other topics that must be outspoken in India. By empowering women and educating the whole population to create a safe place for all gender on the spot, Johar became a phenomenon after her performance in a poetry contest thanks to her slam intitled “A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender” when she was only 18. Check in on youtube: the song will give you shivers. Today, the artist’s getting famous worldwide and give interviews for international newspapers: a breath of fresh air for women in the country, and for all societies which are still not comfortable talking about female daily issues.
You probably never heard of Julia Bluhm, and yet, what started has a small online petition became viral and has been heard by a huge business: the Fashion industry. At 14 years old (in 2012), the student became the leader of a rebellion against the beauty and fashion industry thanks to the creation of a petition on Change.org to progressively end photoshopped pictures in Seventeen fashion magazine. A few days later, 25 000 people had signed it, and within the following weeks, Bluhm was invited to appear on CNN, ABC nightline, and in Seventeen offices. Now you may think this action is not as impressive as the others we just listed, but here’s the thing. Numerous studies have shown evidences of correlation between reading fashion magazines and female body dissatisfaction, and more specifically drive for thinness. As a matter of fact, over 80% of 10 years old of afraid of being fat, over 50% of teen girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors and 78% of 17 years old girl are unhappy with their bodies (Heather R. Gallivan). These practices are known to result as eating disorders such as anorexia, which has the has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness, and predominantly affects teenage girls and young women. So yes, Julia Bluhm requirement for a better representation of young girls in fashion magazine is a small progress regarding what’s left to do, but it is one. In addition to that, she now empowers the youth by providing advice on ideas.ted.com.
“Use online resources; there are tons of them. I also encourage people to join organizations and activist groups. Most of the young people who’ve taken action had a group that helped them out. It’s hard to do an action all by yourself, but if you have a team, it makes it a lot more possible.”
In sum, whatever causes you stand for, trust yourself and believe you’ll make a change. This is how it all started.