Teenage Girls Are So Incredibly Powerful. Like These 15 Teens Who Are Changing The World
From organising protests to setting up international organisations, teenage girls are SO powerful. Here are 15 powerhouse teens who are GETTING. STUFF. DONE.
Despite taking part in a couple community service projects, I was a fairly lazy teenager. Bright enough to pull off a 4.0 in school, I preferred to do just enough work to eke by with a 3.5. My time at home wasn’t much better; I spent most of it trying to arrange my schedule to fit in the maximum amount of sleep possible. Though I had my opinions on politics (George W. Bush was in his first term during my high school years), and I felt strongly about equal rights for all, I didn’t do much to back up my words.
Thankfully, today’s teenage girls have more get-up-and-go than I did. Generation Z is giving the millennials a run for their money when it comes to social activism and getting a hell of an early start on it! These trailblazers are staring down the world’s problems and deciding to actually do something about them. Let’s look at some of the remarkable young women out there who are building a brighter future for the world — and doing it all before age 20.
Today’s Teenage Girls Fight Sexism On Every Level
Jules Spector, 17, became a notable voice in the feminist movement after founding the popular blog, Teen Feminist. Not only does her influential site act as a platform for a wide range of feminist issues, she has spent much of her time campaigning against child prostitution, helping young girls in developing countries access education, and interning for the Harnisch Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to investing in girls and women everywhere.
When discussing the need for feminism, she explained:
“Feminism creates a community of powerful women and men who share the same ideals. It’s so great to have a space like that where we can share ideas and thoughts that are accepted by everyone, and we can have interesting discussions.”
Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser
New York high school students Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser met each other while attending classes at Girls Who Code, an organization working to close the gender gap in tech. Their mutual love of coding led them to create the simple but addictive video game, Tampon Run. Not only does their game normalize menstruation, it brings it to the forefront of an industry that is historically sexist. Said Gonzalez of the game, “Women are taught throughout their lives that their periods are embarrassing and crude, something to feel ashamed of. As a result, Tampon Run was born.” Check it out online our download the app for iOS.
You should also check out their book Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done. And if you want to get coding, give yourself the freedom to do that. It’s about trial and error, not perfection.
They Tear Down Ridiculous Beauty Standards
In 2012, 14 year old Julia Bluhm took notice of the photoshopped models in teen magazines and decided she’d had enough. She spearheaded an online petition to encourage Seventeen Magazine to feature one unedited spread per month — and ended up getting much more (in a good way) than she bargained for.
Bluhm explained, “I’ve always just known how Photoshop can have a big effect on girls and their body image and how they feel about themselves. You need to see something realistic — you need to see a reflection of what truly represents a teenage girl nowadays.”
After seeing Bluhm’s arguments that photoshopping models to a point beyond human perfection leads to low self-esteem and eating disorders in young women, editor-in-chief Ann Shoket decided that from that point on, Seventeen would only feature real, healthy models and “never change girls’ body or face shapes” by photoshopping them. Though only one magazine has made such a pledge so far, it’s definitely a step in the right direction — and we have Julia to thank for that.
Much like Julia, popstar Zendaya is calling out unethical photoshopping. After fashion magazine Modeliste shaved inches off of her hips and waist, the actress/model/singer turned to Instagram to express her displeasure.
“Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19-year-old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have. Anyone who knows who I am knows I stand for honest and pure self love. So I took it upon myself to release the real pic (right side) and I love it.”
Upon being publicly shamed for their ridiculous editing, the magazine pulled the entire printed issue of the publication before it went into circulation.
When Teenage Girls Organize Protests… Shit Gets Done
When high school students Colette Raptosh and Nora Harren realized no one was organizing their state’s version of the National Women’s March, they decided to do it themselves.
Colette Raptosh and Nora Harren
Though they attempted to contact the sponsors of the Washington march, they never received a reply. Without official leadership to guide them, they forged ahead, forming a committee of community organizers, lining up speakers, and putting together food and clothing drives. Even after Harren’s car was vandalized with swastikas, they pushed forward, refusing to be intimidated.
When all was said and done, they led more than 5,000 people in Idaho’s rendition of the Women’s March. For so many people to come together to fight for refugee, LGBTQ and women’s rights in one of the most conservative states in the union, was a big deal. And it was all thanks to a couple of teenagers who wanted to make a difference. Even Hillary Clinton had something to say about it.
Eva Lewis, Maxine Wint, Sophia Byrd, and Natalie Braye — these are four names to take note of. This bright group of 16 and 17 year old girls were the driving force behind an impressive sit-in protest at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL. More than 1,000 people showed up to both sit-in and march against gun violence and police brutality in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Maxine explained that “the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were so sickening and disturbing I could no longer use my platform on social media to explain my hurt for the lives lost to police brutality and gun violence.”
Eva, who is also founder of the I Project, pointed out the power of young black women:
“The four of us — Natalie, Maxine, Sophia, and I — are all black teenage girls. Additionally, all the performers at the sit-in were black teen girls. This wasn’t intentional. It was black teen girls who stepped up the plate. For being at the forefront of change, we deserve recognition that we as a community of black women don’t often get.”
They Care About the World Outside Their Hometowns
At just 12-years-old, Mary Grace Henry had a mission. After asking for a sewing machine for her birthday, she taught herself how to make reversible headbands. She then sold those headbands at her school store and donated 100 percent of the profits to fund the education of an underprivileged girl.
But she didn’t stop after sending one girl to school, she kept going. She founded Reverse The Course, an organization which, to date, has sent 115 girls in four countries to school. Upon being presented the World of Children award, she said: “Educating a girl can reverse the course of her life, change the course of a community… and a country.”
In 2013, 16 year old Sarah Gale was named co-chair of Girl Up, the UN Foundation campaign to promote the health, safety, and education of women in developing countries. The trilingual teen from Boca Raton has been working to improve the lives of Colombian teens living in crushing poverty. Furthermore, she tirelessly devotes her time and energy to raise awareness, and funds to help young women around the world get the help they need.
“When I first came across the Girl Up campaign four years ago, I realized that girls in developing countries have desires and goals just like any girl. However, they can sometimes live in societies where girls are kicked to the curb, degraded, raped, trafficked, and patronized. This dire reality infused me with an obligation to my counterparts in developing countries, and Girl Up’s empowering community and passionate supporters have only reinforced my commitment and love for Girl Up’s mission.”
They Fight for Marginalized People
It’s not easy being transgender in today’s society, but that didn’t stop Jazz Jennings from stepping up to be an inspiration for trans teens the world over.
An active LGBT campaigner, Jazz speaks openly about her experience as a trans child. She’s also co-founder of the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which provides financial support to homeless transgender youth.
In her book, Being Jazz, she talked about why advocating for trans rights is so important:
“The homicide rate for transgender women in America hit a historic high in 2015, according to the Human Rights Campaign, even with all the current support and visibility. Almost all of them were women of color, and the number killed was twenty-one as of November 2015—that’s basically two people a month, and the real number is likely to be even higher due to unreported cases. Worldwide it’s much worse: Between 2008 and 2014, there were 1,731 reported murders. That’s really terrifying, and a huge reason why I continue to be a public advocate and keep speaking out. Change happens through understanding, and one of my biggest hopes is that our next generation of kids will grow up in a world with more compassion.”
Anoyara Khatun – photo courtesy of WION TV (click link for Youtube feature)
At age 12, Anoyara Khatun became one of the millions of victims of trafficking. Forced into domestic labor for other families, Anoyara was rescued in 2007 by Save the Children organization in Kolkata. After returning home, she decided that no other child in West Bengal would suffer her fate and began campaigning against trafficking. In the past nine years, Anoyara and her team have rescued more than 200 children who were forced into domestic labor. She’s also prevented 35 child marriages, and registered 200 children in local schools. She has gone on to talk to the UN about the horrific circumstances children in her country face every day and is working alongside Bill and Melinda Gates on the Every Woman, Every Child initiative.
These remarkable young women are just a handful of teenagers around the globe who are working to move society forward. Their amazing spirit is something to be not only admired, but emulated. I have no doubt that teenage girls are going to keep on changing this world for the better, so keep your eyes peeled.
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