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I'M WITH HER: YOUNG WOMEN CHANGING THE WORLD
Kids are mean. Kids are bullies. Kids are stubborn. Kids are honest. Kids are resilient. They aren't knocked around easily by life's curveballs. They might not have a diploma from high school or a master's degree, but they have great ideas. The imagination is their most powerful tool. An idea becomes a concept and grows into a solution. A silly thought can evolve into a respectable and impressive program that shapes communities and raises awareness. Small ideas, big questions, and an unbeatable "why not" attitude can create change. These are commendable young women that are all trying to solve a problem and advocate for change.
Thandiwe Chama was a teenage activist. She focused her energy on education and every child's right to learn. As a young girl, Chama would go to school in Zambia, until one day the school was forced to close. During this time education and resources were limited. Teachers at Chama's school died, due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, forcing the school to close its doors indefinitely. Chama was 8 years old and took it upon herself to lead the rest of her class to another school. The school ultimately accepted Chama and her classmates even though there wasn't enough space. Chama persisted to use her voice and stand up for her and other children because she believed every child deserves an education. Her continuous efforts of activism have been heard. Chama was awarded the "2007 International Children's Peace Prize. Since then she has written books on educating children about HIV/AIDS and advocates for children's rights.
Maya Penn started influencing change before she was 10 years old. "Maya's ideas" was founded in 2008 when she was 8 years old. The purpose of the program was to design environmentally friendly clothing and accessories. The environment is Penn's purpose and therefore her designs are made from recyclable materials. Penn explains, "I always use old, vintage fabrics or organic bio-based materials like cotton. I use 100% organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo, as well as recycled vintage materials in creating my clothing and accessories." Along with her successful clothing line, she has also illustrated a couple of books for children and has written a book of her own about entrepreneurship and empowerment. In 2013 Penn launched a new environmental project called, "Maya's Ideas 4 The Planet". The initiative works to provide eco-friendly "pad kits" to young women of impoverished countries. Education is power and young women without access to these hygienic products miss school, fall behind and end up dropping out.
When it comes to body image, young girls have it rough. In recent years there has been a shift in the media. This shift has caused more and more ad campaigns to minimize editing tricks and for some eliminating photoshopped images altogether. Young girls are starting to see more females that are "real". They have freckles, dimples, or cellulite. This change in part is due to Julia Bluhm. Bluhm was a teenage ballerina and self-proclaimed feminist. Aware of the toxic pressure to look a certain way or to be thin, decided to protest. Bluhm created a petition with Change.org asking Seventeen magazine to include "one unaltered photo spread per month." The petition spread like wildfire and gathered over 84,000 signatures. "Seventeen" magazine agreed to the petition's terms and vowed to include a more diverse range of models. Bluhm proves that beauty is everywhere and in everyone.
Melati & Isabel Wijsen
Plastic products and other recyclable items aren't being recycled— they are getting stuck in the oceans. The Wijsen sisters were tired of swimming at the beach and getting attacked by plastic bags instead of seaweed. Together they launched their program "Bye Bye Plastic Bags" in an effort to eliminate single-use plastic. They created a petition and even used a trick from Gandhi. The girls who were both teenagers at the time went on a hunger strike. The motion caught so much attention that the girls met with the governor of Bali and discussed strategy for phasing out the plastic. While Bali isn't plastic free yet, the sisters continue to organize beach clean-ups, TED talks, and educating people about plastic and its harmful effect on the environment.
TGIF doesn't mean it's Friday for Cassandra Lin. For her, this phrase takes on a new meaning. Turning Grease Into Fuel (TGIF) is a program Lin and her classmates founded to recycle cooking oil used in restaurants. When Lin was in fifth grade the concept of climate change was introduced and caused a wave of panic and distress. Lin decided to act by researching ways that she could reduce the number of fossil fuels burned. By recycling used cooking oil, and converting it into bio-diesel the program has prevented approximately two million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air. In 2012, Lin had 120 restaurants participating in TGIF. The project continues to expand past the borders of Rhode Island and into neighboring states.
Greta Thunberg is a name people have become familiar with. A young girl from Sweden that is sick of dancing with politicians, tired of negotiations, and exasperated that the responsibility has fallen on her generation to take the environment seriously. Thunberg has rallied support internationally as a public speaker, and environmental activist. What began as a weekly rally every Friday on the steps of Swedish Parliament, has grown into marches, and speeches across the world. As an activist, she strives to decrease her carbon footprint and influence change within society. Thunberg takes the environment seriously because it is her generation that will have to endure the repercussions of the older generations' reckless behavior.
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