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11 Young Women Who Are About to Make History

These young women are hard-working, inspiring—and about to change the world.

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The next generation

The world needs help. Climate change, war, poverty, inequality, and more threaten our futures. Fortunately, these young women aren’t sitting idly by. They are standing up and speaking out. They are organizing and fighting to provide us with a better tomorrow. Find out what shaped these remarkable human beings and propelled them become leaders on the worldwide stage. More importantly, once they’ve inspired you, find out how you can join them and help make the world a better place.

Swedish environment activist Greta ThunbergPablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg needs no introduction—after all, she’s practically a household name. Still, we’ll list off a few of her accomplishments because it’s inspiring to do so. At 17 years old, the Swedish-born climate change activist has already been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Twice.
Thunberg started her work with climate change at home, convincing her parents to make lifestyle changes to lower their carbon footprint. From there, she began organizing school strikes and making speeches. In 2019, she made headlines for a fiery speech at the United Nations in which she laid the blame for climate change squarely on the previous generation and called on them to work harder to rectify the damage. Thunberg, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, was named Person of the Year by TIME and famously likes to get the last laugh by incorporating President Trump’s criticism of her into her Twitter bio. In 2019, Thunberg even had a beetle named after her. You can help Thunberg by making these tiny changes to help the environment.

Activist/Advocate Emma Gonzalez, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High SchoolParas Griffin/Getty Images

Emma Gonzalez

Who could forget high school senior Emma Gonzalez’s impassioned speech advocating for gun control just days after surviving a shooting that killed 17 people and injured another 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018? Gonzalez managed to communicate the anger, sadness, and confusion of an entire nation in the wake of a terrible tragedy and called upon lawmakers to make sure it never happened again. She went on to cofound the group, Never Again and helped organized the gun control advocacy event, March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. in which she delivered another gut-punch of a speech. Tragically, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas wasn’t the last mass U.S. shooting or even the last shooting to take place in a U.S. school, but she continues to fight and perhaps, more importantly, inspire others to do the same. Here are the undeniable facts about mass shootings in America. You can help by visiting the Never Again website to donate money or time.

Amika George activistDavid M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Amika George

When she was 17, Amika George learned that as many as 10 percent of girls in the United Kingdom were forced to skip school on a regular basis because they couldn’t afford period products. George decided to act, founding Free Periods to advocate for free menstrual products in all U.K. schools and colleges. As part of her campaign, she has also worked to remove the stigma behind periods, arguing that boys should be educated about periods, too. Today, George is a 20-year-old student who continues to advocate for free menstrual products and equality for girls everywhere. Although women have come along way, we still have work to do, as evidenced by these reasons women still aren’t equal to men. You can help by donating to Free Periods.

Singer Sonita AlizadehRandy Shropshire/WireImage/Getty Images

Sonita Alizadeh

If you don’t think rap and advocacy go together, it’s likely you’ve never heard of Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh. By the time she was 16, she’d narrowly avoided being sold into marriage by her family twice; the first time she was only ten years old. To protest this treatment of girls, Alizadeh turned to her favorite art form: rap. She composed the song, “Brides For Sale” and Iranian filmmaker, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami helped her make a music video of the song, which she loaded onto Youtube. The video went viral, prompting an international conversation about the issue and empowering other girls to speak to out about their own experiences. Today, Alizadeh is 24 years old and continues to speak out and fight for the end of the practice of selling girls into marriage. You can help spread awareness about forced child marriage by sharing Alizadeh’s video.

Marley Dias activistMonica Schipper/Getty Images

Marley Dias

When she was ten, Marley Dias realized there was a problem with her education. Teachers kept assigning her, and other students, to read the same book over and over again. It was a book about, “a white boy and his dogs,” prompting Dias to wonder where all the books were that feature black girls as the central character. She decided to collect 1,000 books starring black girls to send to the school her mother had attended as a girl in Jamaica. She created the hashtag #1000blackgirls and the campaign quickly ignited enough to support to help her exceed her original goal by a wide margin. Today, Dias is 15 and she’s helped collect and distribute over 12,000 books, organized a reading party at the White House, and appeared on TV programs like The Ellen Show to advocate for diversity in literature. You can support her efforts by purchasing her book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You. Speaking of books, here are 100 children’s books everyone should read in their lifetime.

Sophie Cruz activistVivien Killilea/Getty Images

Sophie Cruz

Sophie Cruz was only five years old when she stepped on the world stage. Clutching a letter she’d written in crayon, she broke through security at a parade in Washington, D.C. to hand her letter to Pope Francis. In the letter, Cruz, a citizen of the United States, expressed her fear that her parents, undocumented immigrants from Mexico would be deported and asked the Pope to speak to the president on their behalf. Now ten years old, Cruz has continued to speak out on behalf of undocumented families, even speaking in front of the Supreme Court and speaking in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. You can help support her cause by writing to the lawmakers who represent you. Don’t miss these inspiring stories of women who are changing the world for the better.

Jazz Jennins trans activistEmma McIntyre/Getty Images

Jazz Jennings

Jazz Jennings is a 19-year-old transgender advocate who uses modern platforms like YouTube and the TLC TV show, I am Jazz, to spread a message of inclusion and equality. She first drew national attention after being interviewed by Barbara Walters when she was 11 years old. She now speaks openly about her gender confirmation surgery and uses her fame to promote equality, body positivity and rights for the LBGTQ+ communities. She has been accepted to Harvard University and plans to start in the fall of 2020. You can help Jennings by supporting her Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation. Here’s how the rainbow became associated with gay rights.

Malala Yousafzai activistMarla Aufmuth/Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai

At 22 years old, Malala Yousafzai, sometimes referred to simply as Malala, is one of the best-known advocates for female education in the world. She began speaking out about the right girls should have to education when she was a young girl in Pakistan. By 2012 she was the victim of an assassination attempt as a result of her advocacy. It did not stop her. After recovering from her injuries she established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to the work of helping girls achieve their educational goals. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and holds the distinction of being the youngest Nobel laureate in the history of the award. Malala is one of the ordinary people who changed the world and you can join her by supporting the Malala Fund.

Grace Callwood activistDave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Grace Callwood

When she was only seven years old, Grace Callwood was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and spent the following three years going through treatment. The experience left her determined to make the world a better place. In 2012 she started a non-profit called The We Cancerve Movement, dedicated to helping children experiencing homelessness, illness, or living in foster care. The organization is notably served by a board of advisors who are all under the age of 18. Today, Callwood herself is 15 years old and her organization has facilitated over $300,000.00 in in-kind donations to benefit children all over the world. You can visit the We Cancerve website to learn how to donate or get involved. Here are more ways you can help foster children.

Khloe Thompson activistJamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Khloe Thompson

Khloe Thompson was a nine-year-old girl who walked by countless homeless people on her walk to school. She found herself increasingly concerned about the well-being of people suffering from homelessness in her community. Despite her young age, she was determined to help them. Thompson started an organization named Khole Kares to help people in need, distributing hand made “Kare bags” containing three months worth of socks, toiletries, and menstrual products. Today, Thompson is 13 and her organization is going strong. You can help by visiting her KhloeKares website to learn more about her work and make a donation. Here’s what no one tells you about what it’s like to be homeless.

Bana al-Abed activistTommaso Boddi/Getty Images

Bana al-Abed

Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed held the world in thrall when she began tweeting about her family’s struggle to stay alive during wartime in Aleppo, Syria. Her family managed to flee and they eventually made it to Turkey who granted her citizenship. She eventually published a book called, Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace and began speaking out about peace and the importance of childhood education, particularly those in wartorn countries. Today, al-Abed is ten years old, you can help amplify her voice by buying her book. These 13 children’s rights still aren’t universal but should be.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane