8 Girls Changing the World

On International Day of the Girl, we look at some of the young women making a world of difference

October 11, 2019

4:15 pm

Greta Thunberg has drawn global media attention to her efforts to fight the climate crisis. In the process, she has become a bona fide hero to most, while also becoming a lightning rod for criticism to those dark voices in the climate-denier space.

Neither role can be easy for a 16-year old, who, as she said so poignantly to world leaders in New York last month at the UN, “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

As today is International Day of the Girl Child, Earth’s Call is celebrating other girls from around the world whose childhoods have been “stolen,” who should not have had to take time away from their youthful experiences to take on wrongheaded policies and practices of governments and businesses — but to whom we nevertheless all owe a debt of gratitude that they have.

* Ridhima Pandey, India, 11

When she was nine years old, Ridhima filed a court case against the Indian Government for “failing to take ambitious action to tackle climate change.” As reported by the Independent, India, “the world’s third carbon emitter, has failed to put into action the promises it made in signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

* Xiye Bastida, Mexico and New York, USA, 17

Raised in the Mexican town of San Pedro Tultepec, Xiye fully realized her role as a climate leader after moving to the US, where she witnessed the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, which hit the New York City area in 2012. Today, a senior in high school, Xiye is seen as “America’s Greta Thunberg” for her role in organizing the Climate Strikes during UN Week in New York City.

* Autumn Peltier, Wiikwemkoong First Nation (sovereign territory in northern Ontario, Canada), 15

She was named the chief water commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation, a “political advocacy group for 40 First Nations across Ontario” — and that was when she was just 14 years old. Now 15, Autumn is a passionate advocate for indigenous peoples globally, who like Thunberg, did not hold back when addressing world leaders at the UN last month: “We can't eat money or drink oil.”

* Mari Copeny, Flint, Michigan, 11

When she was 8, Mari — aka “Little Miss Flint” — wrote to President Obama, asking him to come to Flint to see firsthand the city’s water crisis. According to Elle magazine, “When the Flint Water Crisis began in Flint, instead of feeling helpless, Mari decided to use her voice to help out her community and to fight for the kids in Flint.” As Mari tweeted a year ago, “I’m 11. My generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.”

* Nakabuye Hilda Flavia, Uganda, 22

Two years ago when she was 20, Nakabuye “first learned about climate change in a Youth for climate dialogue at my University organised by Green Climate Campaign Africa.” Since then, “I first heard about the school strike for climate on Twitter when I saw Greta Thunberg striking for climate action. After seeing Greta’s bold move to school strike for climate, I also committed myself to missing classes on Friday to demand climate action and in February, I joined Fridays For Future Uganda.”

* Melati and Isabel Wijsen, Indonesia, 18 and 16, respectively

The Wijsen sisters live on what many consider a tropical paradise — the island of Bali in Indonesia. But the island is so inundated by plastic bags washing up on its formerly pristine beaches that the island was suffering a “garbage emergency.” Thanks to the efforts of the girls, who formed the nonprofit activist group Bye Bye Plastic Bags when they were just 12 and 10, the Bali government announced a full ban on single-use plastic bags this summer.

* Katie Eder, Wisconsin, USA, 19

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a road map to saving the planet by 2030. The 17th of the 17 Goals is “Partnerships,” and is emblematic of the need for cooperation needed across all sectors to effectively make change. Katie is living proof of this Goal, as she was instrumental in creating Future Coalition, a network of dozens of organizations that banded together to coordinate efforts to pull of the two Global Climate Strikes on Sept. 20 and 27, in which 7.6 million people participated globally.

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