Being young is mostly a fight to be taken seriously. Being an equality defender is running against the strong wind of the capitalist mainstream. Being politically engaged is to take the risk of making a stand and fighting publicly while encouraging people to do the same. But combining the ‘beings’ is a new level of societal challenge. Here is a list of noticeable young politicians who are not afraid to take a stand on the issue of women’s rights.

 

Malala Yousafzai, 19, Pakistan (now – the UK)

In such an early age, Malala has already become an iconic feminist activist for girls whose rights of education are unfairly prejudiced. ‘A global advocate for Girl’s education’ – that is how her mission is called. Since her childhood, learning has been Malala’s main passion. However, in Pakistan, just like in many other regions all over the world, thousands of girls have been deprived of the opportunity. That is why Malala with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, threw down a challenge to all the turmoil that was started by the Taliban: schools have been destroyed, women were forbidden to do ordinary things like listening to music or shopping. In 2009 Malala started to write BBC-blog where she told about everything happening just outside her door.

Three years passed, her brave actions turned into a horrible event. In 2012 a gunman burst into a bus, by which Malala came back from school, and shot her from a gun. A single bullet went through Malala’s head, neck and shoulder, but, fortunately, Malala survived. Right next year, Malala with her father founded Malala fund that continues its work today.

Finally, as we mentioned before in our article about 15 Millennial Female Politicians, Malala is the youngest-ever Nobel Price laureate. She got it in 2014 when she was only 17 years old. For sure Malala is proud to be given such a honorary award, but it has never been her main goal.

This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frighten children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change”, Malala says in her Nobel Peace Price Speech.

Then she underlines our generation’s duty to provide each of 66 millions girls who need a hand with equal rights of education, “My greatest hope is that it would be the last time we must fight for education”.

Photo: Malala Yousafsai and Kailash Satyarthi, Indian children’s rights and education advocate

Emma Watson, 27, the UK

From Hermione’s gown and Belle’s yellow dress to a formal suitEmma Watson now actively participates in politics concerning women’s rights. By the way, during an interview at the premiere of a documentary He Named Me Malala, the Pakistan activist said that particularly Emma Watson has convinced her not to be afraid stating herself with a word feminist – “because feminism is another word for equality”

Photo: Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson at the premiere of a documentary He Named Me Malala 

And that, as for us, is the main Emma’s credit – being a world famous figure, she is able to clarify the word ‘feminism’ that is misunderstood by many people and is interpreted like anti-men movement, which is inappropriate. Thus, being an ambassador of the UN, Emma launched He For She campaign, which goal is to prove that feminism is not only about women’s rights. It is about men’s rights too, that is why ‘He’ should be concerning about genders’ equality the same way as ‘She’ does.

 

Prince Harry, 32, the UK

And lots of men do concern. Let’s move from Hermione’s featured actress to Harry – not Potter (well, by the way, Daniel Radcliffe is also a femenist). But in this list we could not help telling about Prince Harry who considered to be “a long-term supporter of women’s rights”, as Daily Mail reports. Last year the younger son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, visited the Nepal Girl Summit in Kathmandu. The royal supported the Nepalese’ fight against child marriage. Interesting fact is that Prince Harry opened the Summit with Bidya Devi Bhandari, the first female president of Nepal.

Here in Nepal, nearly half of all women who are today in their 20s, 30s and 40s were married before their 18th birthdays. And a little under half gave birth while still in their teens”, the Prince announced statistics that remains bleak.

Prince Harry said that he was inspired by feminist role models such as the US First Lady Michelle Obama and Malala, but, “It cannot just be women who speak up for girls”. And it is not just heroics  Prince Harry in cooperation with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho founded a charity called Sentebale. The team’s mission is “to become the leading organization in the provision of psychosocial support for children living with HIV in Southern Africa”, in order to support children, both girls and boys, with productive equal lives they deserve.

Photo: Prince Harry with children from Phelisanong Childrens Home in Lesotho

 

Shamil Makhecha, 25, the UK

Another equality defender from Britain is Shamil Makhecha. He is a member of Plan International UK’s ‘Youth For Change’ project.

His activism is largely in gender-based discrimination and violence not only in the UK, but also in the international field. Previously, Shamil has led a project in rural Bangladesh aiming to decrease rates of child marriage and promote women’s economic empowerment. Through a mixture of active citizenship days and informative courtyard sessions, the team he worked within increased awareness of sexual reproductive health and civil rights.

I believe that many young boys, myself once included, have a moral compass that will lead them to fight for gender equality. The question is whether they have the moral courage to follow that instinct, and use their voice to help defend equal rights.

In the UK, Shamil is a campaigner with Youth For Change; a coalition of young activists hoping to eradicate gender-based violence. Through their #TrainToProtect campaign, they have previously tackled issues including FGM, child marriage and honour based violence.

Having an academic background in researching the role of education in reducing social inequalities,  Shamil plans to study further study gender-focused development whilst continuing to campaign.

 

Nick McKenzie, 28, the UK

Being Great Men Value Women Project manager Nick McKenzie states that it isn’t a women’s battle.

Young men are often under a lot of pressure to prove their masculinity in ways that put them and others at risk, and they are influenced by cultural expectations of how girls and boys should behave according to their gender. – Statement of Great Men Value Women Project.

The project provides workshops in schools in order to combat gender stereotypes at its roots and create appropriate models of masculinity. During this event volunteers challenge perceptions of ‘’real men’’ aggressive behavior and women and homosexuals as inferior.

In retrospect my awareness was decades too late and this is why our work with boys is so important – so that the next generation of men can take an active role in promoting gender equality. – Nick McKenzie.

 

Memory Banda, 19, Malawi

Coming back to children marriage in Nepal, it should be said that the country’s case is not the worst. In some countries like Malawi even more than a half of girls are forced to get married in their 15s and refuse from education. However, even in such circumstances there are activists who want change. Meet Memory Banda – the girl who felt how meserable the girl’s rights are through her own expirience. 

Giving a TED Talk, she told a story of her younger sister who got pregnant in the age of 11.

Once you reach puberty stage, you are supposed to go to initiation camps. In this initiation camps you are taught how to sexually please a man<…> Imagine the trauma that these young girls go through every day. Today she is only 16 years old”, Memory continues about her sister, “and she has three children. Her first marriage did not survive, nor did her second marriage”.

Instead of following the same way, Memory joined the Girls Empowerment Network and Let Girls Lead. Then she started to communicate with Malawi leaders. At the age of 19 Banda and her colleagues achieved a revolutionary goal for their community, 

Our leader stood up for us and said that no girl has to be married off before the age of 18.

The sky is the limit Banda is not going to stop here. Now she gets a secondary education and is sure that her future profession will be connected with law. I’ve always wanted to do law, and I feel like I still have to pursue that, Banda tells Popsugar about her plans.

 

Sara Ezabe, 20, Malta

By the way, in what degree should young women be involved in politics? Is it approptiate that women who profess some religion are restricted in political participation? Activist from Malta, Sara Ezabe, believes that young women must be given a voice on a political stage. The reason is that women has their own challenges that they are concerning about, the same way as men do. That is why “there should be a gender balance representation”Sara says about proportion of men and women having political rights.

To take a step in achieving this goal in Malta, Sara founded the Network of Young Women Leaders. There are not lots of participators yet, but they set a great example for everyone who wants to be heard.

In  movements in America, I see many Muslim women who are the forefront of fighting for their rights and overcoming the barriers.

As for religion aspect, Sara claims that there also should not be any boundaries. On tricky question asked by an interviewer, “Do you find there is a contradiction between your Muslim faith and your beliefs on gender equality?”, she answers, “To my knowledge at least, there are no verses in the Quran which says that women cannot act equally in society or that men have more to contribute than women”. 

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