Meet the fearsome young leaders paving the way for a better future

Ciara Sheppard
Contributor Yahoo Style UK
Edna Chavez, Emma Gonzalez and Noami Wadler speak on stage at March For Our Lives [Photo: Getty]

In history, it’s often the youngest people that cause catalyst for change.

There’s a elevated kind of passion when it’s your direct future at stake, and it’s this that some of the world’s youngest activists are utilising to fight their cause.

This has perhaps never been more true than in 2018.

We profile the young activists who are single-handedly making a difference, proving age means nothing…

Emma Gonzalez, 18

Her cause: Gun-control advocacy

Emma Gonzalez has given the latest, most poignant push for gun-control a face. Her impassioned speech at a rally of victim’s families, students and community members just days after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, made everyone take notice.

During it, Gonzalez stood in silence for over minutes before an alarm went off which indicated the time it took for Nicholas Cruz to kill 17 people. “Since the time I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds,” she said. “The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour.”

D.C analyst David Corn called it the “loudest silence in the history of US social protest.”

Since, Gonzalez and her group of friends (notably Cameron Kasky, 17, and Jaclyn Corin, 17) have spearheaded their cause, facing the world once again on stage at the March For Our Lives march.

In addition to this, Gonzalez co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD with other survivors and is vocal on social media, often deploying the now-famous hashtags #NeverAgain and #EnoughIsEnough.

Yara Shahidi starred in Black-ish [Photo: Getty]

Yara Shahidi, 18

Her cause: Education 

These days, American actress Yara Shahidi – best known as Zoey Johnson on the sitcom Black-ish – might be more known for her activism than her acting.

Shahidi founded eighteenx18, a platform which encourages young people to vote for the first time. Perhaps most notably, she launched Yara’s Club, a partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership School, which is a forum for young people to debate social issues.

In addition to this, Yara has interview Hillary Clinton for Teen Vogue and had her university letter of recommendation written by Michelle Obama… yes, Michelle Obama. Beats Mr Jones from Geography class, doesn’t it?

Sonita Alizadeh continues her work to fight against child brides. [Photo: Getty]

Sonita Alizadeh, 20

Her cause: Against arranged marriages

Sonita Alizadeh’s story is a remarkable one. Growing up in HeratAfghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban, at just 10-years-old Alizadeh was nearly sold as a bride by her parents before they decided to flee to Iran.

In Iran, while working as a cleaner, Alizadeh discovered rap, and found inspiration from Eminem, before long writing her own songs.

In 2014, she entered a US competition to write a song that encouraged Afghan people to vote in the general election. Sonita released a rap called “Brides For Sale” in which she sang against arranged marriages – a doubly bold move considering it’s illegal for women to sing in Iran.

Shortly after winning $1,000 in prize money, her mother tried to sell her as a bride again for $9,000, before documentary maker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami paid her mother money to allow her to film with Sonita for six months.

Here, Alizadeh made the video to “Brides For Sale,” as part of the documentary ‘Sonita’, which garnered her international attention.

After being offered a scholarship to study in America where she now lives, Alizadeh continues to push her brand and challenge the outdated tradition of child brides.

If that’s not inspirational, we don’t know what is.

Payal Jangid, 15

Her cause: Against child slavery, child marriage and girls’ right to education avocate

Payla Jangid‘s in another entirely inspiring one. When she was 14-years-old, she escaped child slavery in India before deciding to fight for children who weren’t so lucky.

Now, Jangid lives inRajasthan, India, where she is the leader of her village’s Child Parliament. Here, she fights wholeheartedly with adults in the committee to make the community more “child-friendly”.

Going door-to-door to talk to members of the community about how they can improve, is an everyday job for Payla.

“A good leader is honest and solves problems instead of complaining. We visit children at home and explain to their parents why school is important,” she says. “We also tell fathers not to beat their children or wives. If they behave in a loving way life is better for everyone.”

The young activist has met Michelle and Barak Obama in the past and Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez at the Social Good Summit [Photo: Getty]

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 17

His cause: Climate Change

In 2015, 15-year-old Colorado-based Roske-Martinez – along with 21 other youths – filed a lawsuit against the US government. In it they argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

At the same age Roske-Martinez spoke to the United Nations on environmental policy and gave TED talks.

Now, at 17, Roske-Martinez acts as the youth director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide conservation organisation and continues his fight for the US government to take environmental issues seriously.

Hear, hear. 

Lily Madigan

Age: 19

Her cause: Trans rights advocate and member of the Labour Party 

Lily Madigan threatened to sue her secondary school in 2016. Why? Because they refused to recognise her as a woman.

Her school in Maidstone, Kent, threatened to suspend Madigan for wearing female uniform, forcing her to wear the male version. They also reportedly denied her access to the female toilets and continued to use her old name, Liam.

Madigan soon hired a solicitor, and before long, the school backed down.

Now at age 19, Madigan is the first transgender person to be elected as a women’s officer in the constituency Labour Party. An entry into politics that has been met with huge amounts of criticism and abuse on social media.

Despite this, Madigan wants more: she’s is hell-bent on becoming the first trans member of parliament.

Madigan told The Independent“The trans community is so under-represented in politics that it can be hard for them to become engaged. It is difficult to get involved when you do not see people like you and there is a lack of role models.”

Follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.

Read more from Yahoo Style UK:

No, Parkland survivor Emma González did not rip up the Constitution

Millie Bobby Brown gives sartorial support to Parkland shooting victims in custom Calvin Klein

The best photos from March for Our Lives around the world