“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family—five billion strong; in fact, 30 million species strong—and borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.”
These powerful words were spoken by Severn Cullis-Suzuki during a speech she presented at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (also known as the Earth Summit). She was only twelve years old.
Later known as the girl who silenced the world, Severn’s speech was a desperate appeal to world leaders—a plea for them to change their destructive ways in order to make the planet a better place for future generations.
Since Severn’s speech—and even far before—there have been countless young people raising their voices, trying to make a difference in this hectic world. From fighting for women’s rights to advocating for the environment, these young activists are tackling social justice issues head-on and proving you can accomplish anything you set your mind to—regardless of how old you are.
Here’s to the Severns of the world.
5 Young Activists Who Are Changing The World
Going vegetarian at age 3 and then vegan at age 6, Genesis Butler has spent the short amount of time she’s been on this earth advocating on behalf of animals. At just eight years old, Genesis founded her own animal advocacy organization named Genesis for Animals, and by age ten, she became one of the youngest people to ever give a Tedx Talk. Her presentation, which centered around how consuming animal products negatively impacts the planet, paired alarming facts with her adorable sense of humor to advocate a vegan lifestyle and its numerous benefits. Now, at the age of eleven, the sky is the limit for this young activist as she works to change the world, one person at a time.
Melati and Isabel Wijsen
In 2013, Balinese sisters Melati and Isabel took the issue of plastic waste head-on after founding their own company, Bye Bye Plastic Bags. Remarkably, the sisters were only 10 and 12 years old, respectively! The sisters were inspired to start the company after learning about successful leaders in school like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Their company is now known internationally and has teams in fifteen different countries! Melati and Isabel’s mission of a world without plastic bags has led to the Bali airport’s ban on plastic bags in August 2016, and at the start of this year, the island of Bali officially went plastic bag-free! Even more impressing is the fact that the two girls’ work has led the country of Indonesia to follow suit. By 2021, Indonesia plans to ditch plastic bags for good!
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny
In 2016, at just eight years old, Mari Copeny (known in her town as “Little Miss Flint”) made headlines after she wrote a letter to President Obama, asking him if he could meet with her and a group of concerned Michigan residents during their trip to Washington D.C. to watch the congressional hearings on the Flint water crisis. Now, at the age of eleven, Little Miss Flint has become a pillar in her community and is one of the youngest youth ambassadors for the Women’s March—proof that the future truly is female!
Born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997, Malala has been a prominent figure in the fight for women’s rights in the Middle East. Advocating a woman’s right to a quality education, Malala began speaking out publicly against the Taliban’s prohibition on female education when she was only 11 years old. At age 15, Malala received global attention after a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. Miraculously, Malala survived, and following much public outcry and protests, Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill was ratified, guaranteeing all children between the ages of five and 16 access to free education. In 2012, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari created a $10 million education fund in Malala’s honor, and in 2013, Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” #BeTheChange
Also by Audrey: Serena Williams’ Clothing Line Is All About Women’s Empowerment (And It’s Vegan!)
Related: Harry Potter Star Evanna Lynch Says “Attractivism” Will Save The World
We Can’t Solve Environmental Issues Without Intersectionality–Here’s Why
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photos: Genesis Butler via Instagram, Melati Wijsen via Instagram, Mari Copeny via Instagram, Iris Fen Gillingham via Instagram, Malala Fund via Instagram