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Five young women activists to watch -a moderator's take

British activists Ella Meek and Amy Meek, founders of "Kids Against Plastic", address last year’s Young Activists Summit at the UN in Geneva. (KEYSTONE / Salvatore Di Nolfi)

On International Women’s Day five young women activists from around the world shared their motivation, their pandemic experiences, and advice for future generations.

I was privileged to moderate the conversation, at an event hosted by the EU mission to the UN in Geneva and UN Women.

I came away convinced world leaders could learn a lesson or two. They aren’t waiting to be invited to the decision-making table, and are already driving change in their communities and beyond.

The solidarity among them encapsulates a global movement led by female youth, determined in their fight for gender equality, education, eradicating period poverty, and dealing with climate change.

“We do not have to wait for the adults to start campaigning for the action that we want to see,” said Amy Meek of the UK. Along with her younger sister Ella, Amy, 17, launched an award-winning campaign, now a charity, called Kids Against Plastic. The sisters were motivated by realising the devastating impact the misuse of plastic was having on the planet and also its potential legacy for future generations.

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Five activists from around the world took part in the virtual Young Women Activists event. (Credit: UN Women)

“I grew up realising how much girls were taught to be weak, were taught to be submissive while boys are taught to be strong and to be leaders. For me it was really puzzling, ”said Yande Banda, a passionate 17-year-old feminist activist and education advocate from Zambia. Yande is the chairperson of Transform Education, a global youth-led coalition hosted by the UN, where she advocates for a gender transformative approach to education. “I began being an advocate and in particular a feminist, ever since I could realise the consequential inequalities within society - so I would say I was around six years old.”

“The fight to end the climate crisis has not stopped for the pandemic and as feminist leaders, neither have we”.

İlayda Eskitaşcioğlu, 28, is a human rights lawyer and a PhD student at Koç University in İstanbul. She founded an NGO, We Need to Talk, in 2016, which aims to fight against period poverty and period stigma in Turkey.

“Periods do not stop for pandemics! Neither does the fight for gender equality! We are still breaking taboos, step by step - fathers, brothers, romantic partners, co-workers, teachers, those that are not menstruating, period poverty is your problem too! ”

We Need to Talk provides sanitary products to three vulnerable target groups: Seasonal agricultural workers, refugees and pre-teens who are going to school in remote rural areas, and tries to start an honest and open conversation around menstruation in the Middle East.

Lucija Tacer is the current UN youth delegate for Slovenia and an advocate for women's rights. She has made gender equality the priority in her interventions at the world body.

“I entered into a workplace where all of the partners and the high level people are men, except one or two women and 100 percent of the secretaries were female and just being in that environment every day really got me thinking, what is going on here ? ”

Julieta Martinez, 17, from Chile is the founder of the TREMENDAS Collaborative Platform, which promotes the empowerment of girls, and young people by putting their skills and talents at the service of the community.

“Amazingly talented girls are all around the world. We have to continue looking for them. We have to continue giving them a space. And we have to continue this fight to actually get to gender equality… Girls, young women and adolescents have the right to raise their voices, to be heard and to take action for their dignity, their integrity and to be agents of social change in a society where human and youth rights must always be defended. ”

link

Watch the full event on youtube here.

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