Celebrating Young Social Justice Activists
In recognition of the UN’s International Youth Day on August 12, this month we will look at just some of the many young people who have been working hard as advocates and activists for women’s rights, gender equality, and more.
Young people are essential partners in change, and International Youth Day enourages better understanding of the needs of young people, as well as implementation of policies to help them overcome the challenges they face. - See more at: http://en.unesco.org/events/international-youth-day-2014#sthash.LGr0XHSq.DYT6lya5.dpuf
Jinan Younis, 18, is a theology student at the University of Cambridge. Younis's views sharpened a few years ago as a result of street harassment. She was on a trip to Cambridge with friends when some men shouted at them from a car. When Younis shouted back, they doused her with cold coffee, which left her feeling humiliated and infuriated.
She took action by setting up a feminist society at school, and when some boys in her peer group abused members, she wrote a Guardian article that went viral. Last October, she started at Jesus College, Cambridge, studying theology, and promptly joined the student union women's campaign and set up her own feminist group at college. Since then, she has written for the Guardian about rape culture at university, which led to a sexual consent workshop being held at Cambridge.
She attended a Reclaim The Night march in February this year. "I can't describe how amazing it was," Younis says. "After the event, people were writing about how they had been sexually assaulted when they were younger, and hadn't told anyone, because they never felt they had this space of security, love and solidarity before."
She is hoping for a career working with refugee women, survivors of rape and domestic violence, and women in poverty. "Those are the day-to-day experiences of so many women in this country, yet we don't even hear about them," she says.
Tavi Gevinson, now 18, founded the fashion blog StyleRookie at age 11. The blog gained an astoundingly large audience - so large that The New York Times interviewed her for an article on young bloggers. With such great popularity came critics and backlashes because of her success as a young person. New York Magazine questioned the legitimacy of her work, not believing that it could have been written by such a young person. Gevinson proved critics wrong, created a safe space for young writers, and began the now hugely popular online magazine, Rookie. Rookie's main contributors are young women and the magazine focuses largely on issues impacting teenage women.
Since 2011 Gloria Malone, 22, has used her blog Teen Mom NYC to build an online community to help empower peer pregnant and parenting teens across the country. Throughout Gloria’s writing, whether it’s a quick post about resources for parenting teen or an op-ed in The New York Times, her dedication to her community and her commitment to achieve greater justice for young parents powerfully resounds.
Gloria advocates for the importance of supporting, not shaming pregnant and parenting teens, as well as the necessity for comprehensive sexual education in all schools, birth choice, and reproductive justice. Just a few months ago, she joined activists at the steps of the Supreme Courtto speak out for women’s reproductive rights as the Court began to hear Hobby Lobby. Along with all of this incredible activism, Gloria is also in the process of wrapping up her bachelors degree in Public Affairs from Baruch College in NYC. And to take her rockstar status to the supreme level, she’s the proud mama of Leilani.
Madison Kimrey is a 12-year-old living in North Carolina and fighting to reinstate voter preregistration for 16 and 17 year olds. Preregistration was eliminated by a bill signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. Kimey collected over 12,000 signatures in a petition in support of her mission. When she requested a meeting with McCrory, he declared the request "ridiculous" and she was told that she was a mere "prop" for left political groups. Kimrey started the NC Youth Rock movement in response.
In response, Kimrey started a movement called NC Youth Rock in support of the voices of young people in North Carolina. Her speech at a local rally won national attention—which she's using to reach even more young people with her message. In regards to those who suggested she was a "prop" for the left, Kimrey said
"I want to remind them that I’m raising awareness on the issue of pre-registration to help kids on the right, too. The majority of teens here in NC who pre-registered did that as independents. That means these teenagers are sending a message they want to consider all the candidates and positions on the issues before they make a choice on who to vote for. That’s responsible citizenship. One of the points I’ve seen made in favor of pre-registration is that having more young people registered to vote will mean candidates will be more inclined to target young voters and will have to keep them in mind when developing their platforms. Considering that we are going to be the ones running the country someday, I think this is a good thing." -via Quiet Mike
Ukrainian 15-year-old Liza Yaroshenko is one of the youngest campaigners for tolerance and understanding of HIV, as well as affordable treatment options. Liza was six when she lost her mother to AIDS, and carries the HIV virus. She speaks out on healthcare laws that hurt those affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as generalHIV awareness. "I hate it when people spread false information,” she told BBC. “I can't keep quiet.”
A very well known young activist, Yousafzai is an advocate for education and women’s rights. Hailing from the Swat Valley of Pakistan, the 16-year-old has been speaking out on education rights since she was 11. Her father, a school owner and educational activist, encouraged Yousafzai's fight against the Taliban, which banned many girls from attending school. In 2012, she was the target of an assassination plot by Taliban leaders. A bullet entering her head, went through her neck and ended in her shoulder. She miraculously survived and is still speaking out, addressing the United Nations in July of 2013 and meeting with world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama.