Everyone has the power to be a social impact hero. Just ask these women.

We live in a world where more and more women are being encouraged to embrace their strengths every day — but it's an uphill battle.

While the upcoming generation is already being touted as the generation that will "save the world," the young women in that group are still fighting to have their voices heard.

That said, all this social activism is empowering women in new and exciting ways. By standing on platforms for change that inspire them, whatever that may be, women's voices are being raised to new heights, and, as a result, they're reaching many more girls and women eager to pick up the torch.


L’Oréal Paris is amplifying these inspiring voices through their Women of Worth program.

Since 2005, L'Oreal Paris has been honoring women making a significant impact in their communities through their passion for volunteerism and giving back to others.

Shandra Woworuntu. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth.

Each year, L’Oréal Paris selects 10 Women of Worth Honorees to receive a $10,000 grant in support of their charitable cause. Following a nationwide vote, Honoree Shandra Woworuntu was chosen as the 2017 National Honoree, and received an additional $25,000 grant in support of her organization, Mentari. A survivor of human trafficking and domestic violence, Shandra founded Mentari, which is a nonprofit organization that assists victims of human trafficking free of charge. Even though she's just one woman, her efforts are making a monumental difference.

Here's a look at three other women whose strengths made a huge impact in their own communities.

The 2017 Women of Worth. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

1. 19-year-old Cassandra Lin started Project Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), which strives to get leftover grease converted into fuel for underserved families to heat their homes.

Growing up in Westerly, Rhode Island, during the 2008 recession, Cassandra learned many families couldn't afford to heat their homes in the winter.

"I think the fact that some people have to make the decision of whether to put food on the table, or to heat their homes, is a really difficult decision that no family should really have to make," says Cassandra.

Cassandra at 10. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

At just 10 years old, she was determined to come up with a solution.

While visiting a green energy expo at the University of Long Island, Cassandra learned that you could turn used cooking oil into Biodiesel fuel. So she started going around her neighborhood to local restaurants to see if they'd be willing to donate theirs.

Several got on board, and soon enough, TGIF was helping local families and shelters stay warm in the winter.

A restauranteur donating cooking oil to TGIF. Photo via L'Oreal Paris/Upworthy.

And it's not just about philanthropy — using biodiesel fuel is also much better for the environment. In fact, to date, TGIF's efforts have offset almost 3 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

2. Meanwhile Valerie Weisler is giving strength and confidence back to teens all over the world who've been bullied.

When Valerie was 14, her parents told her they were getting a divorce, and just like that, she shut down. Suddenly she became this person who didn't talk or make eye contact, which unfortunately made her a target for bullies.

Kids started leaving cruel notes attacking her behavior in her locker. It didn't take long for those words to sink in.

"I just branded myself with all those words and told myself that they were right," says Valerie.

Then, one day she saw another kid getting bullied by his locker, and her perspective changed. She told him he wasn't alone in what he was going through — he told her that validation meant more to him than she could possibly know.

That night, she went home and started her nonprofit — The Validation Project.

Photo via The Validation Project.

The organization not only provides support for teens who feel like outsiders, it connects them with a project they're passionate about that also happens to generate social good. It's all about reminding them they're capable of anything.

"Sometimes you just really need somebody else to tell you that you have that worth inside of you and show you how you can use it," says Valerie.

Today, the Project works with approximately 6,000 teens in 105 countries around the world.

3. And Deborah Jiang-Stein helps incarcerated women move on with their lives, and not be defined by their past.

Deborah was actually born and spent the first year of her life in prison because her mother was incarcerated. She then spent the majority of her childhood in foster homes, and almost wound up back in prison on a number of occasions.

Eventually, however, she was able to pull herself off her destructive path, and founded UnPrison Project — a nonprofit dedicated to helping incarcerated women lead a successful life after their release.

"The theory is that if there're self-development programs, self-esteem education, literacy improvement inside, that they'll have the skills on the outside to do something differently and be a resource," says Deborah.

Deborah Jiang-Stein. Photo via L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth.

But it's not just about developing life skills. A large part of Deborah's job is sharing her own story with incarcerated women so they can see that it's possible to take a different path after prison.

Deborah says it's about taking away the label of "prisoner," and showing these women who they truly are.

"When I'm at a prison, what I see before me isn't prisoners," says Deborah. "I see people's mothers, and aunts, and grandmothers, and daughters, and sisters, and we relate to each other like that."

Thanks to bold activists like this, more and more women will know they can do anything through both strength and conviction.

"We see them all as agents of change and we want them to be able to identify problems in their own communities, and eventually be able to rally people around that issue to create systems change," says Rana.

Inspiring agency within others is what every Woman of Worth Honoree strives to achieve. And, thankfully, the next generation seems more than ready to be that change, and take on whatever challenges come their way.

For more on the Women of Worth campaign, check out the video below:

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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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