Malala has changed the world for the better. These 5 young women are too.

Photo by Odd Andersen​/AFP/Getty Images.​

You've probably heard of Malala Yousafzai.

Yousafzai gained worldwide attention when she survived an assassination attempt from the Taliban in 2012. She was shot in the head and neck while on the school bus in Swat Valley, Pakistan, because she was advocating for girls' rights to an education.


Since then, Yousafzai has made it her life's mission to champion gender equality and human rights. She launched the Malala Fund, a nonprofit that supports girls' education across the world and she's visited refugee camps to show solidarity with displaced young people. Her work earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest person to ever be awarded the prestigious distinction.

In 2013, she gave a compelling speech before the United Nations on July 12, her birthday, calling for global access to education. July 12 thereafter became Malala Day.

Following in Malala's powerful footsteps, here are five other young women working to change the world for the better.

1. Emma González, 18

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Emma González, 18, used her voice, or lack thereof, to bring awareness to gun violence.

On March 24, at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., González captivated the world when she stood in silence for a portion of her speech. Her time at the podium was just over six minutes — the amount of time it took a gunman to open fire at her high school in Florida and kill 17 of her classmates.

González and her fellow students have spoken at rallies, met with local community members, and have even gone head-to-head with lawmakers demanding actionable change to gun law reform.

2. Mari Copeny, 10

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

You may have heard of Mari Copeny as "Little Miss Flint." The 10-year-old has become one of the leading activists fighting for access to clean water in Flint, Michigan.

When she first heard news that her town's water supply was contaminated, a then-8-year-old Mari wrote a letter to then-President Obama requesting to meet with her and other Flint residents to discuss the water supply. In response, Obama traveled to the city to see the issue firsthand.

Little Miss Flint is still working hard for her community. In the past year, she has raised thousands of dollars to provide Flint students with backpacks for the school year. She has even appeared in a campaign ad endorsing Abdul El-Sayed for governor of Michigan.

3. Yara Shahidi, 18

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV

Yara Shahidi, 18, is all-around #BlackGirlMagic. You may know her as Zoey Johnson from the television shows "Black-ish" and "Grown-ish," but the budding actress has dedicated her platform to advocate for social justice.

Shahidi has been an outspoken advocate for better representation and diversity in Hollywood. She uses her appearance on daytime and late-night television to speak in favor of human rights and racial equality. Most recently, the Iranian-American actress spoke about the harmful consequences President Donald Trump's Muslim ban has on families like hers.

But Shahidi also puts her words into practice. She started Yara's Club, a collaboration with the Young Women's Leadership School, where she gathers high school students to discuss how to bring about social change. She has also worked with Michelle Obama for the former first lady's Let Girls Learn program that emphasizes girls' education.

What's Shahidi up to now? This fall, when she's not acting or leading the resistance, Shahidi will be pursuing an undergraduate degree at Harvard University. She plans on majoring in African-American studies and sociology.

4. Bana Al-Abed, 9

Photo by Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images.

Bana Al-Abed may not be 10 yet, but she has experienced some of the most daunting realities of this world. Al-Abed gained notoriety for using Twitter to show the world the hellish conditions in her community in Aleppo, Syria. From broadcasting airstrikes to describing widespread hunger, Al-Abed gave people an inside look into the nightmare and human strife that comes with war.

Al-Abed and her family managed to flee to Turkey as refugees, but while she may have managed to escape the terrors of war, the experiences still live with her. In October 2017, Al-Abed released a book, "Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace," detailing her accounts of the Syrian Civil War to further spread her message.

5. Janna Jihad, 12

Photo by Janna Jihad/Facebook.

Janna Jihad is among the world's youngest journalists. But for Jihad, who lives in Nabi Saleh of the occupied West Bank, journalism is no easy feat. She uses her mother's iPhone to film videos in Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, and Jordan, where she documents in English and Arabic the discrimination Palestinians face at checkpoints and Israeli soldiers' abuse toward women and children.

Her work has also made her a target. In April 2018, Israeli authorities detained and interrogated Jihad on her way home on the Jordanian border.

But the 12-year-old is no stranger to scare tactics. She and her family experienced much worse, and violence won't faze her from continuing her journalism career. It's her way to defend her family and the Palestinian people. "My camera is my gun," Janna told told Al Jazeera. "The camera is stronger than the gun [...] I can send my message to small people, and they can send it to others."

These young women may advocate for different causes, but they prove one important message.

It's an understatement to say that these activists are inspiring. Despite hardship and turmoil, these young women were able to find voices within themselves and take a stand.

It proves that it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, how old you are, or which gender you identify with, if you put your mind to it, anyone can make a difference.

More

If you're a woman and you want to be a CEO, you should probably think about changing your name to "Jeffrey" or "Michael." Or possibly even "Michael Jeffreys" or "Jeffrey Michaels."

According to Fortune, last year, more men named Jeffrey and Michael became CEOs of America's top companies than women. A whopping total of one woman became a CEO, while two men named Jeffrey took the title, and two men named Michael moved into the C-suite as well.

The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

How much of what we do is influenced by what we see on TV? When it comes to risky behavior, Netflix isn't taking any chances.

After receiving a lot of heat, the streaming platform is finally removing a controversial scenedepicting teen suicide in season one of "13 Reasons Why. The decision comes two years after the show's release after statistics reveal an uptick in teen suicide.

"As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we've decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one," Netflix said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At Trump's 'Social Media Summit' on Thursday, he bizarrely claimed Arnold Schwarzenegger had 'died' and he had witnessed said death. Wait, what?!


He didn't mean it literally - thank God. You can't be too sure! After all, he seemed to think that Frederick Douglass was still alive in February. More recently, he described a world in which the 1770s included airports. His laissez-faire approach to chronology is confusing, to say the least.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Words matter. And they especially matter when we are talking about the safety and well-being of children.

While the #MeToo movement has shed light on sexual assault allegations that have long been swept under the rug, it has also brought to the forefront the language we use when discussing such cases. As a writer, I appreciate the importance of using varied wording, but it's vital we try to remain as accurate as possible in how we describe things.

There can be gray area in some topics, but some phrases being published by the media regarding sexual predation are not gray and need to be nixed completely—not only because they dilute the severity of the crime, but because they are simply inaccurate by definition.

One such phrase is "non-consensual sex with a minor." First of all, non-consensual sex is "rape" no matter who is involved. Second of all, most minors legally cannot consent to sex (the age of consent in the U.S. ranges by state from 16 to 18), so sex with a minor is almost always non-consensual by definition. Call it what it is—child rape or statutory rape, depending on circumstances—not "non-consensual sex."

Keep Reading Show less
Culture