In the past few years, we’ve heard some incredibly powerful female voices, many of whom are still pre-teens and teens. These female youth activists aren’t afraid to speak out about all of the injustices in the world – or to confront adults about their culpability in everything from climate issues to gun violence.
Read on for some incredibly inspiring female youth activists who make us realise that you don’t need to be a grown-up to change the world. #Girlgoals.
A 16-year-old Swedish female youth activist who has inspired legions of children around the world to strike for climate change, Thunberg was the first climate-change striker when she sat outside Swedish Parliament and demanded they agree to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement in August 2018. Thunberg truly practices what she preaches – she’s made her family go vegan and stop flying to reduce their carbon footprint. In the past year, Thunberg has become a household name, speaking at numerous global conferences from the European Economic and Social Committee to Davos, and has just been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
“We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is,” Thunberg said in her impassioned Davos speech in January 2019.
González has been one of the leaders of the charge when it comes to calling for gun law reform in the United States. Just days after the mass shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018 killed 17 of her peers and injured numerous others, González gave a powerful, grief-stricken and rousing speech at a gun control rally in Florida. She declared: “We are going to be the last mass shooting,” as well as repeating her infinitely quotable message to President Trump: “We call BS.” She continues to actively campaign against current gun laws, organising and advocating as part of March For Our Lives. She recently helped the group to set up an art activation outside of the Capitol building in D.C., with towering letters spelling out: “Your Complacency Kills Us.”
Millie Bobby Brown
Not only does she play our favourite character on Stranger Things, but Millie Bobby Brown, 15, is also UNICEF’s youngest-ever Goodwill ambassador and TIME magazine’s youngest “Most Influential Person” of 2018. Since she rose to fame, she has been using her social platforms to prevent bullying and cyber-bullying and raise awareness of children’s rights and issues, from education to violence. This female youth activist wears her activism on her sleeve: when she picked up a Teen Choice Award in 2018, she paid homage to the March For Our Lives organisers with a custom Calvin Klein denim outfit featuring the names of all 17 lives lost in the tragic Parkland school shooting.
An Afghan rapper and activist, Sonita Alizadeh made waves with her 2014 song, Daughters for Sale, which drew attention to the devastating experience of child brides. She has been a vocal advocate against child marriage – a fate she narrowly escaped – which sees 12 million girls a year married before the age of 18. Sonita received a grant from The Strongheart Group which helped her relocate to the US to get an education. She continues to campaign, calling herself a “rap-tivist” and young girls everywhere will know all about her – she’s featured in the bestselling book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
At 11, voracious reader Marley Dias launched a campaign to channel her frustration at only reading books about “white boys and dogs” into an inspiring activist movement to raise awareness of books with black girl protagonists, by collecting and donating books through #1000BlackGirlBooks. The viral social media campaign – she’s amassed over 12,000 books since she started – led to her writing one of her own: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! She’s also created the Marley Mag ‘zine for ELLE.com and is a regular speaker at summits, where she discusses the need for diverse representation in popular culture.
The 12-year-old female youth activist rose to prominence after her impassioned speech at 2018’s March For Our Lives gun control rally, when she urged the United States not to forget “the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.” She now hosts the DiversiTEA podcast on EllenTube, where she interviews inspiring game-changers like Serena Williams and Jameela Jamil, covering everything from gun violence to female representation in the media.
Jackson made history as the first transgender person to grace the cover of National Geographic when she was nine years old, with the quote: “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.” She campaigned with Planting Peace to paint the local Equality House in the colours of the transgender flag – blue, white and pink – to help encourage acceptance in her community, and has written a children’s book based on her experience of being transgender, called It’s Okay to Sparkle.