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Who runs the world? Girls!

Popstar Beyonce Knowles certainly knew what she was talking about when she released this cult pop classic in 2011!

While discussions on women empowerment have made their way onto mainstream media, equal if not more emphasis needs to be rendered to the girl child as well. Resilient from birth, girls overcome unfathomable challenges just to survive till adulthood. Despite all this, they manage to excel and emerge triumphant in fields stereotypically dominated by males. We have all heard about revolutionary women like Savitribai Phule and Ramabai Ranade who, in their time, fought for the rights of the girl child.

In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly resolved to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This was to showcase commitment to ensure quality education and dignified life to every girl.

In this article, we have curated a list of some female youth pioneers who have instigated salient discussions in varying fields ranging from Climate change, Women’s education and rights, LGBTQIA+ issues to Science & technology:

Malala Yousafzai

malala

Image Source: Image source: https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/malala-yousafzai-facts

Perhaps the most well-known personality on this list, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for opposing their restrictions on female education in her home country Pakistan. In 2009, Malala had started a blog under a pseudonym to highlight the growing fears over her school being attacked and the military situation in her hometown. After the unprecedented attack on her, Malala was recognized as an international symbol in the fight for female education and in 2014, she became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In 2013, Malala and her father co-founded the Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to demand change.

While Malala was fortunate enough to escape from Afghanistan, the recent takeover of the country by the Taliban saw many more rebellious women like Maryam (a women’s rights activist and Executive Editor of Her Afghanistan), Pashtana Durrani (Executive Director of Learn Afghanistan) hold their ground for the welfare, safety and independence of women in the war-torn nation.

Latifatou Compaore`

Latifatou Compaore

Image Source: Image source: https://www.socialketchup.in/badass-women-activists/

After hearing of her mother’s horrific experience with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), 15-year-old Latifatou has dedicated her life to fighting against this inhuman practice. A talented singer, she uses the power of music to spread awareness about this practice that is unfortunately still prevalent around the world. Her song “Excision” garnered attention from hundreds of thousands of people. She has recorded two more songs centred on this issue since then.

Jazz Jennings

Jazz Jennings

Image Source: Image source: https://www.glamour.com/story/jazz-jennings-tlc-interview

Jazz Jennings is an American YouTuber, television personality, and LGBTQIA+ rights activist. Jennings is notable for being one of the youngest publicly documented people to be identified as transgender. Jennings is an honorary co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which she commenced in 2007 to assist transgender youth.

In 2013, she founded Purple Rainbow Tails, a company in which she fashions rubber mermaid tails to raise money for transgender children. Jennings starred in the TLC reality TV series titled “I am Jazz” which focused on her life as a teenager and a transgender youth.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/11/greta-thunberg-schoolgirl-climate-change-warrior-some-people-can-let-things-go-i-cant

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard of this young stalwart. Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate youth activist who sparked an international movement to fight climate change in 2018. She initiated the “School strike for climate” movement which involved her skipping school on Fridays and protesting outside the Swedish Parliament.

Staying true to her principles, she has abandoned air travel as a mode of transport due to its heavy carbon footprint, choosing instead to ride a yacht from England to New York, the USA in 2019 across the Atlantic Ocean. Thunberg had been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2019 and was voted as Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ the same year.

Marley Dias

Marley Dias

Image source: https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Marley+Dias

When Marley Dias grew sick of reading books featuring white boys as the main character she launched a campaign in 2015 called #1000BlackGirlBooks. Her goal was to collect and donate 1000 books featuring black girls as the main character. Not only did she succeed in her goal by a huge margin, but she also landed herself a book deal.

Since then, Marley has spoken at the White House’s United States of Women alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah, The Forbes Women’s Summit, United Nation’s Girl Up, Inbound, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the Social Innovation Summit and several others. Marley was recognized by TIME, as one of the 25 most influential teens in 2018.

Payal Jangid

Payal Jangid


Image source: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-girl-payal-jangid-gets-changemaker-award-for-fight-against-child-labour-marriage-by-gates-foundation-6026739/

Payal was just 11 years old when she fought back against her family who was forcing her to quit school and get married. After successfully convincing her family to call off her marriage she voiced her concerns against the age-old tradition of child marriage and ‘Ghunghat Pratha’ (custom in which women covered their heads with a veil) in her village.

It took a year for change to emerge but women in her village finally starting raising their voices against orthodox traditions. In 2019, Payal was awarded the ‘Goalkeepers Global Goals Changemaker Award’ by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a Bal Pradhan, she has worked tirelessly to empower the children and women of her village.

Amika George

Amika George

Image source: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/a34029602/amika-george-interview-girl-rising/

Amika George, an Indian origin British citizen was just 17 when she read an article about how young girls in the UK had to bunk school for a week every month since they were too poor to afford sanitary products. This prompted her to start the ‘Free Periods’ petition in 2017 to seek government intervention. She led a protest outside the British Prime Minister’s residence and utilized the media to demand change. Amika also launched the ‘Free Periods’ not-for-profit organization in 2019. Her efforts paid off when the Chancellor in 2020 announced funding for schools to provide menstrual products to its students. In 2021, Amika George was honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). She is the youngest person to feature on the Queen’s prestigious list.

Samaira Mehta

Samaira Mehta

Image source: https://www.cnet.com/news/this-12-year-old-ceo-is-giving-free-coding-ai-classes-during-covid-19/

Samaira Mehta at the age of 12 is already the founder and CEO of Coderbunnyz and Codermindz. These are board games that explain computer programming concepts to children. She is also the creator of the ‘Yes, One Billion Kids Can Code’ initiative which aimed to enable children to access STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and coding tools by 2030.

Takeaway!

While we may lament the loss of our younger generation to the perils of social media and digital networks, there is little doubt about the fact that there are stellar young individuals who are using these platforms to build social awareness and initiate change at a micro-level.

These young movers and shakers have proved that age is just a number indeed as they continue to pave the path for a better future for their own generation and the ones to follow. They prove that with sheer grit and determination, one can initiate change whether it is at a community level or an international one. Cheers to these young women for making the world a more habitable place, one step at a time.

 

Featured Image Source: Image by Pezibear from Pixabay
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About the author

Ritika Shetty is a medical student based in Mumbai. She is a voracious reader with a strong dislike for dog-eared book pages. In her free time, she prefers to go on long walks and binge-watch legal thrillers.

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