At only 17 years old, she’s the youngest Nobel Prize laureate ever. Malala Yousafzai was an activist before she was even a teenager, writing a blog about life in a Pakistan where education was denied to girls such as herself by Taliban rule. Soon after, she became the subject of a BBC documentary, and it wasn’t long after that, that an attempt was made on her life by a gunman on board a school bus.
Despite being shot, Malala survived – and the world hasn’t been the same since. The attack even spurred a UN petition in her name that would eventually lead to Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill.
Malala Yousafzai is still fighting for access to education for children all over the world, receiving the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work. She has recently donated some award money towards the reconstruction of schools in Gaza.
It’s hard to believe that in the United Kingdom, where Malala now lives, she’s not even old enough to vote – yet she is an inspiration and testament to what is possible with hope and determination. So in honour of Malala Yousafzai’s award, we’ve put together this list of ten more young activists who are also doing their part to change the world:
In 2005, teenager Darius Weems embarked on the journey of a lifetime – a 11,000-kilometre road trip across America to raise money and awareness of the disease that he’s living with, Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It spurred a well-known documentary called Darius Goes West and now at 25 years old, the young activist is still as active as ever.
Update: Darius Weems passed away in October, 2016 at the age of 27. From a statement released by his organization: “Joy. Camaraderie. Love. Those are the emotions he would want us to feel — emotions that he embodied in his lifelong fight against DMD, and that he spread through countless individuals across the hundreds of thousands of miles of roads that he traveled.”
A few months ago, a 12-year-old from North Carolina restored everybody’s faith in the future of politics. Madison Kimbrey gave this moving speech after the state passed some questionable legislation. She now writes her own blog called Functional Human Being, covering topics including feminism and how to get young people mobilized in politics.
In September, Harry Potter star Emma Watson stunned the world with this poignant address as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She’s now instrumental in launching the UN campaign He for She, which calls on men to be equally responsible for promoting gender equality.
This young lady started SlutWalk in 2011 with a small group of friends, dressing up in fishnets and revealing outfits to make a powerful statement about rape culture. The movement quickly spread from Toronto around the world, including Singapore, India and South Korea. Jarvis continues to dedicate her life to queer and feminist activism.
Ryan Hreljac was just six years old when he used his chore money to help build wells in Africa. Those were the humble beginning of the Ryan’s Well Foundation. Now 21 years old, Hreljac has raised millions of dollars for water and sanitation projects in third world countries.
At only 15 years old, Liza Yaroshenko is awfully young to be living with the HIV virus. But she’s decided not to let the disease control her life. Yaroshenko has become an activist for raising awareness about the epidemic in her native country Ukraine, as well as around the world. She’s spoken in Ukrainian parliament and continues to work with lobby groups and other organizations.
This 17-year-old is the latest winner of Good Housekeeping’s young campaigner of the year award for launching a campaign against female genital mutilation in her hometown of Bristol. She started a Change.org petition that was a major success, garnering over 200,000 signatures, and continues to work for local charities.
It’s a big deal to speak out against China’s oppressive and censoring regime – which makes what this six-year-old did even more amazing. Pang Pang made this public plea for his adoptive grandparents to be returned. They disappeared after organizing a rally against government corruption.
Asean Johnson brought a crowd (and the Internet) to tears last year, with these words against school closures in Chicago. The video got over 350,000 YouTube views. He’s still a regular kid at school in the Windy City, but continues to campaign as a member of the local student union.
At nine years old, Katherine Figueroa didn’t choose a life of activism, but was pushed into it. Her parents were deported in a worksite raid, leaving the little girl — born in America — entirely on her own. She marched, rallied and her family was released – but that was just the beginning of Figueroa’s journey. She is still campaigning Congress against deporting people who haven’t committed serious crimes.