They organize international strikes for climate change awareness, launch rallies that draw thousands to protest gun violence and speak up as powerful voices for their communities, from Syrian refugees to LGBTQ youth. These campaigners are on the front lines around the world passionately fighting against racism, sexism and authoritarian political regimes. Yet, some of today’s most fervent social activists aren’t even old enough to drive or vote in their home countries.
From the American civil rights movement to the Arab Spring — the world’s youth have always been at the forefront of change. Today, as climate change, economic instability and political unrest threaten their futures, young people’s voices — amplified by technology — are more important than ever.
“I see firsthand every day how young people are changing the world,” says Lori Adelman, director of youth engagement for Women Deliver, an advocacy organization for gender equality and women’s rights. “They tend to speak up very bravely. They challenge the norms. They're very collaborative with each other and intergenerationally. They work to build strategic networks of allies. So, they really drive positive change in a number of ways.”
Young people like Sweden’s 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose Fridays for Future climate change strikes are mobilizing students around the planet, are motivated, passionate and committed to solving the problems they see in the world around them. From Mari Copeny, a sixth-grader in Flint, Michigan, whose appeal to then-President Barack Obama got him to devote $100 million to fixing the city’s water crisis, to other young environmentalists like U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 16-year-old daughter Isra Hirsi, today’s young people aren’t waiting for change to happen.