Young Leaders Directory 2021

To celebrate 2021's International Day of the Girl, explore our second edition of the Young Leaders Directory, a directory of incredible young activists, leaders and campaigners. These girls and non-binary young leaders are working to change the world across issues including social justice, LGBTIQAI+ rights, climate action, education activism, disability rights, and gender equality.

You can explore 2020's Young Leaders Directory here.

With thanks to Purposeful for its support in identifying these inspiring activists.

Adebola Oluchi Aderibigbe

Adebola is an 18-year-old girl child advocate and a member of the Girls Advisory Board of HACEY Health Initiative in Lagos, Nigeria. Her advocacy journey for the rights and equality of the girl child started at 15 when she won the annual essay contest organised by HACEY, "What Gender Equality Means To Me". Adebola has an initiative called "Girls Matter Too" and she is a volunteer member of The Legend Life Skills Foundation, a NGO set up with the aim of equipping young people - especially girls - with skills for success. She hopes to be one of the leading young women tackling Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5 - Quality Education and Gender Equality - through her advocacy.

One action Adebola would like everyone to take:

"SPEAK UP! Each passing day of your life is an opportunity to speak up and make a difference. I don't believe that one is too young or too old to make an impact. We can't do this alone. We need each other. Be the change. YOU ARE ENOUGH."

Follow Adebola on Instagram and Twitter.

Nada Al-Ahdal

Nada is a 19 year-old human rights activist and resident of Yemen known for escaping two different child marriage pacts that her parents had arranged it for her. In 2013, she posted a YouTube video decrying child marriage and showcasing her story. It quickly went viral and prompted coverage of Yemen’s continued practice of child marriage.

Nada managed to influence the comprehensive national dialogue conference in Yemen to pass and apply a law to criminalise the marriage of minors under the age of 18. She was nominated for the 2018-2019 Nobel Prize for Children, and her book has been printed in two languages. She is also Chairman of Nada Foundation for Child Rights Protection.

One action Nada would like everyone to take:

"Help raise awareness and highlight underage girls in the Middle East to help them survive."

Visit Nada’s website at Nadaalahdal.com. You can also find out more in this Chronicle Live article and watch Nada’s Ted TalkMarried and Divorced at the age of 10.

Yande Banda

Yande is a vibrant and passionate 17 year-old girls’ rights activist from Zambia. She is the Co-Chairperson of Transform Education, a youth-led coalition hosted by the United Nations Girls Education initiative. Yande is also the youngest member of the Adolescent Girls’ Advisory Council under the Global Fund for Women. In 2019, Yande co-authored an open letter to social media companies, in collaboration with Plan International Global, to end online harassment. This open letter accumulated over 60,000 signatures and resulted in tangible changes in social media policy. She is also an active member of the adolescents mobilisation team of UN Women to advocate for adolescent engagement, education, girls and women's rights issues.

Yande has presented her work on multiple international forums and has represented her causes at meetings with the Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Miss. Amina J Mohammed, Germany's Education Ministry and special envoys of the UK government.

One action Yande would like everyone to take:

"Funding the work of young activists is crucial. We must prioritise compensating girl activists for their work, expertise and for the resources they put into their advocacy."

You can follow Yande on Instagram and find out more about her work in this article.

Saiban Binte Shahaj

Saiban is an 18 year-old living in Bangladesh. They have always been very passionate about helping people. Their activist life started when there were 14 when they joined Onubikkhon, a social organisation that focuses on creative skill development in children. Since then they have volunteered in different organisations and NGOs, including UNICEF. Saiben also worked on Munda School - Munda is one of the ethnic minority groups of Bangladesh, and the project offers free primary education to children. Other campaigns by Saiban have focused on reducing plastic pollution and raising awareness of child molestation.

One action Saiban would like everyone to take:

“I really wish people could see that changing themselves is a step forward in changing society. If everyone stopped stereotyping others - based on gender, race and other aspects - then I believe we could live in an equal and just world. I hope girls can stand up for themselves and express their thoughts more openly without facing gender discrimination. I want us to be mentally strong and push all boundaries to break free of social norms.”

Follow Saiban on Instagram.

With thanks to British Council for their support in identifying inspiring young activist Saiban.

Favour Chukwugolum

Favour is a 20 year-old Girl Leader, Intern, and Chair of the Adolescent Girls Advisory Board at Girls Voices Initiative in Nigeria. Her passion for activism drives her active participation in the Girls' Rights Movement that has impacted over 800,000 adolescent girls, and through the Girls on the Airwaves project - a digital action campaign to end violence against girls and women that has reached over 200 million people.

Favour represented Girls Voices Initiative to receive the With and For Girls Award in 2019 and served as a member of the With and For Girls Strategic Design Team in 2020. She is excited about a current project that she is working on alongside other girl advocates. They are developing the first girl-inspired curriculum to be integrated into secondary school clubs and empower girls as part of the GIRLEADS Program in Nigeria.

One action Favour would like everyone to take:

“Girls need to be given a seat in the decision making table because we know the issues. We want to further build our capacity while actively participating in matters concerning us. Girls wear the shoes and they are in the best position to tell where the shoe hurts.”

Follow Favour on Instagram and Twitter. Watch Favour talk as part of the Girls Summit in 2018.

Darien Dawood

Darien is a 17 year-old from Jordan currently studying at school in the 12th Grade. She aspires to specialise in the field of artificial intelligence, and spends her free time skateboarding. One of Darien’s biggest passions is empowering girls and she leads a Girls for a Better Tomorrow Program, as part of the not-for-profit Toward a Better Tomorrow. The main objective of their work is to reach girls and empower them with the knowledge and the necessary tools to protect themselves against violence, and deprivation of education and development. Darien has participated in a number of workshops and activities, which have helped her give strength to help girls in her area.

One action Darien would like everyone to take:

“Follow up Toward a Better Tomorrow’s Facebook page and write articles on my work to raise awareness.”

Anya Dillard

Anya Dillard is an 18 year-old activist, philanthropist, social entrepreneur and aspiring filmmaker from New Jersey, US. She is also the Founder of The Next Gen Come Up - a non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging youth to explore activism, pursue community service and raise awareness through creativity. Though Anya has been a socio-political changemaker since she was 12, she started her very first initiative when she was just five years-old. In her community, she is best known for contributing to the largest civil rights demonstration in her town’s history (attended by over 3,000 people), delivering a speech that received over 26,000 views via social media, helping to organise her town’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration, and being elected president of the first all-female, all POC, Student Council cabinet in her high school’s history.

Anya has been featured by countless media publications including The Washington Post, CNN, Elle, Seventeen and Glamour Magazines, and received numerous honours and awards. She’s currently studying Media Studies and Social Justice at Rutgers University Newark.

One action Anya would like everyone to take:

"Donate to The Next Gen Come Up's Go Fund Me and help us to continue the amazing organising work we've been doing :)"

Follow Anya onInstagram, Twitter, TikTok @iamajdillard and YouTube.

Ana Malia Melanie Angeles Falemaka

Ana is an 18-year-old youth mentor and activist at Talitha Project in Tonga, an organisation that works towards empowering young women and girls. With the aid of funds from programmes such as Pacific Girl, they run empowering sessions for girls in Tonga on topics including Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Violence, Self Esteem and Confidence. Outside of Talitha, Ana raises awareness on social media, and at workshops and forums on topics including Climate Change. In her community, Ana leads young people in looking after their elders by encouraging them to do chores as well as empowering them through prayer and other fun activities planned. Ana is also a first year Law student at the University of the South Pacific Tonga.

One action Ana would like everyone to take:

“For me it is simple - people can play their role in helping to implement the change we wish to see in our society and world. If we want to see a change, we have to take the first step and be that change. If love, hope and peace is in our hearts, then there are no barriers to creating a much safer, healthier Earth. Anything is possible through Christ alone.”

Follow Ana on Instagram and the Talitha Project on Facebook.

Kimberley Fusire

Kimberley Fusire is a 16 year-old from Zimbabwe. They have been a child rights activist since the age of 10 when they were inspired to make change after seeing the abuse children in her community were experiencing. She believes that, being a patriarchal society, the voice of the girl has always been considered last or not considered at all; and her lifelong goal is to use the gift of her voice and passion to challenge that norm. Over the past six years, Kimberley has been active as the voice of the voiceless in public places, and teaches her peers and older people about children's rights. She was selected to be part of the World's Children's Prize Child Jury at 12, and was also nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize.

One action Kimberley would like everyone to take:

“I long for a world where everyone takes time to respect the next person irregardless of gender, age, opinion, nationality, skin colour, past differences and the like. It is my greatest hope that we all hear what the other person has to say. Being part of WOW's selected few this year, is another step closer to achieving the change I wish to see!”

Follow Kimberley on Instagram and watch a news piece on some of the issues girls face in Kimberley’s community.

Oumaima Guezir

Oumaima is an 18 year-old from Morocco who prides herself on being sociable, determined and optimistic with an aim to leave a beautiful trail in the world. She is a member of Project Soar; an association that helps girls to become the leader of today and tomorrow. Oumaima works with Purposeful, as well as creating videos on YouTube and studying at the Institute of Journalism and Communication. Oumaima plans to create new motivational videos about girls' education.

One action Oumaima would like everyone to take:

“Watch my videos on my YouTube channel and give me your feedback. That would be wonderful.”

Follow Oumaima on Instagram and check out her YouTube Channel.

Rebecca Sarah Jawara

Rebecca is a 20 year-old computer engineering student, mental health activist, singer and entrepreneur from Sierra Leone. She runs a mental health awareness programme that helps to break the stigma surrounding mental health in her country.

Rebecca has been serving on youth panels for projects including the TarKura Youth Panel and With and For Girls Fund, which puts young people in a position to decide which groups to fund. Her dream is to be a software engineer, serial entrepreneur and participate in as many projects that will help create a safer and better world for girls and young people.

One action Rebecca would like everyone to take:

"Talk about mental health openly."

Follow Rebecca on Instagram.

Farah Kassab

19 year-old Farah Kassab from Jordan is currently studying law at the University of Cambridge as a first-year student. Her activism started when she gave a TedxTalk about society's old fashioned ideologies about the living arrangements of women. Farah has lived under female authority her entire life. Society labeled her family as "incomplete" due to the lack of a male figure; whereas to her, her life was beautifully complete.

In her gap year, Farah interned at a NGO called Arab Women Organisation of Jordan (AWO) where she learned more deeply about the specific laws that discriminate against women. Farah now works with Purposeful as part of the advisory panel for the Arab States to help give funds to groups of adolescent girls and young women to support their initiatives.

One action Farah would like everyone to take:

“I would highly encourage people to read more about the current situation of women in the Middle-East. The socio-cultural setting is still the main cause of the painful deaths of many women, young women, adolescent girls and girls due to honour killings. Just reading, finding petitions online (as there are many), and educating oneself on the affairs of other countries is a massive step to achieving a small change but impactful change.”

Watch Farah’s TedxTalk.

Emily Katy

Emily is a 20-year-old autistic advocate and mental health activist from the UK. Alongside her work as a student mental health nurse and healthcare assistant in mental health units, Emily aims to raise awareness about autism and talk about her experiences of navigating the mental health system. Emily does this through blogging, writing articles, campaigning and presenting to key organisations across England. She’s a Trustee for The Autistic Girl's Network, a new charity which has been set up to improve understanding, mental health provision and education for autistic girls. She is also a Public Governor for her local NHS mental health and learning disability trust, and sits on the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Service council, which works to improve mental health services.

One action Emily would like everyone to take:

“I would like you to follow @AutisticGirls_ on Twitter, and to keep up to date with the work being done to improve education, understanding and mental health provision for autistic girls.”

You can follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram, and read her blog here.

Emaan Danish Khan

Emaan is a nine year-old ecopreneur and climate activist from Pakistan. They are a passionate traveler and nature lover.

Emaan started a climate change portal for young people called Emaanz Peekaboo to make environment and climate change education accessible to every child in Pakistan. Emaan delivers climate talks at school, colleges and universities, and has spoken at many corporate seminars.

One action Emaan would like everyone to take:

"I would like people to sign up for Earth Warrior portal."

Visit www.emaanzpeekaboo.org and watch Emaan talk at an event on YouTube.

Dohyeon Kim

Dohyeon is a 17-year-old activist from South Korea. As a young queer woman, Dohyeon has strived to make this society a more inclusive place for people like her. She served as the leader of Spectrum, the intersectional feminism club at her school. During her tenure, Dohyeon hosted educational events on gender equality, started a campaign against hate speech, and published an LGBTQ youth magazine. Recently, she scaled her work by joining the leadership team of WeTee, a network of young feminist groups across South Korea. At WeTee, Dohyeon is currently working on an interview series that features young feminists with radically different backgrounds and experiences. The purpose of the series is to shed light on the diversity that exists within the feminist movement.

Dohyeon is also passionate about climate justice. She has organized multiple climate strikes and engaged in national litigation for climate inaction along with 18 other young people. Internationally, she sits on C40’s Global Youth and Mayors Forum. In the future, Dohyeon will work to advance the full participation of young people in decision-making spaces.

One action Dohyeon would like everyone to take:

“Don’t underestimate or tokenise young people. Listen to our voices. Stand in solidarity with us. Try to integrate our voices in every aspect of decision-making.”

Follow Dohyeon on Instagram.

Yolanda Renee King

Born on 25th May, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia to her parents, Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee is the sole grandchild of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. She was named in honour of her aunt, Yolanda Denise King, who died a little more than a year before she was born. As Yolanda Renee enters her teenage years, she has already earned the respect and admiration of her generation for her outspoken activism in support of the ongoing work to fulfil the great dream her grandfather shared with America. She has passionately addressed mass gatherings in in protests against gun violence, homelessness and inhumane treatment of refugees seeking asylum on the U.S. southern border. Although both of her parents are energetic social reform activists, they have encouraged her to follow her heart in choosing a career, while being a caring and compassionate person. Yolanda Renee has chosen to become a life-long human rights activist in her own right, while leaving open options for pursuing her own career and interests.

One action Yolanda Renee would like everyone to take:

"Here's my message to other teens. It’s time to build the foundation of the world we dream of. We have one important message to elected officials: it’s time to wake up. People have been asking me why I march. As a 13 year-old without a vote and without any way to pass laws, what’s my role in all of this? Here’s what I tell them: my generation can’t vote, but we can demand that our leaders do their jobs. We know that what people want is not just words on paper, but real action for an inclusive and just country. Marching and activism are the tools we have, and we need to use them... Finally, I march because I know activism works. I’ve seen it in my own family." Read Yolanda's full statement on our Instagram.

Follow Yolanda Renee's Father Martin Luther King III on Twitter and Instagram. Watch a video with Yolanda discussing her legacy here, and Yolanda in conversation with Anne Hathaway here.

Joanne Seoyoung Lee

Joanne is a 21-year old splitting her time between the US and South Korea. She is the Founder and Executive Lead of Passionfruit, a bilingual nonprofit organisation committed to creating an accessible space for education, debate and co-creation for social justice among Korean and English-speaking youth. Her passion for encouraging activism and empowering youth in East Asian spaces is also reflected in her role as the Regional Leader of East Asia at Girl Up, a UN Foundation initiative committed to empowering girls and cultivating leaders of gender equality worldwide. Through her role, Joanne unites girls across the East Asia region and beyond the diaspora to create intersectional solidarity and transform our culture around gender and equal opportunity.

One action Joanne would like everyone to take:

“Look around your community for grassroots initiatives. These campaigns work closely and directly with their target communities and provide much-needed work even if they are not as well-known as large organisations. See how you can support their work, whether it be through volunteering, signing petitions, attending their events, or donating!”

Follow Joanne on Twitter and Girl Up East Asia on Instagram, and watch Joanne speak at an event.

Mariami Lomtadze

Mariami is a 20 year-old currently studying at Carleton University, living in Ottawa, Ontario. They were born and raised in Georgia - a country where Mariam found gender inequality to be a huge issue. As a girl interested in STEM, she felt she always had to fight a little more to prove that she was as competent as her other male peers. Determined to ensure that no other girls would go through anything similar, Mariami started volunteering as a WomenTechmakers ambassador in Georgia, organising different events to empower women in our community. In Canada she is a volunteer for the Women in Computer Science club at her university, and uses her technical skills to take part in gender equality-related hackathons. For one of those hackathons, her team of five remarkable women created a prototype android application to show the brutal realities young brides face regarding access to education, women's rights, domestic violence, and employment gaps.

One action Mariami would like everyone to take:

“I know exactly how much it means when someone else believes in you. Become that person. Show young girls your support, and give them a word of encouragement. Sometimes, young girls give up on their dreams because of the stereotypes and unnecessary challenges in their environment. If we want this to stop happening, show them that you are there for them. And trust me, sometimes one person's faith is enough.”

Follow Mariami on Twitter.

Sima Mangal

Sima Mangal is a 19 year-old Asian activist from South London. A few years ago she launched a campaign with five other young activists called "ICFREE", to raise awareness of the racial profiling of young Black and brown people within the schooling and policing system in South London. Being involved in this campaign led to various media outlets becoming interested in their fight for social justice. Sima was interviewed on BBC Newsnight to discuss how young people’s A-Levels were impacted during the Covid pandemic. Sima is currently attending Warwick University, studying History and Politics, and remains an active campaigner, protesting against atrocities in Palestine and Afghanistan.

One action Sima would like everyone to take:

“Work with other campaigns who share similar interests, or even have more support through social media. Spreading awareness is as important as being a part of an action.”

Follow Sima on Instagram and Tiktok, and follow ICFREE’s Instagram page.

Emilia Massou

Emilia is 15 years-old and from Beit Jala in Palestine. Emilia is a young actress and passionate advocate for children’s and girls’ rights, and has has been part of Inad Theater’s since she was six years-old. She has appeared in theatre and tv shows that raise awareness of the rights of marginalised people, such as people with disabilities and women. Recently, Emilia was awarded a 2019 FilmLab Palestine Award and the 2019 Best Actress Award at the Arab Child Theater Festival in Jordan. Emilia has represented Inad Theatre in three countries. She is the voice of every young Palestinian girl who looks for freedom and equal rights.

One action Emilia would like everyone to take:

“Through my work with disabled girls, I learned and understood to what extent they need care and attention. I am trying to change society's perception of them and include them in all activities through our theatre programme, Inclusive Theater. I would like more people to find out about this programme and help raise awareness.

Follow Inad Theater on Facebook.

Isabel Mavrides-Calderón

Isabel is a 17 year-old American disability rights activist who focuses her work on campaigning policy change, anti-ableism, and accessibility. Recently she has hosted campaigns for disability rights bills with the American Civil Liberties Union and The Center For Disability Rights. She was also an accessibility consultant for The Australian Climate Strike, and is currently writing a research paper on accessibility in education post COVID-19 that she hopes to publish and use to enact policy change for disabled people in education. She loves public speaking in conferences, speech tournaments and her TikTok where she speaks about disability rights issues.

One action Isabel would like everyone to take:

“If you are in the United States, contact your Representatives and tell them to support the SSI Restoration Act of 2021. This bill will be revolutionary for marriage equality for disabled folk and ensuring disabled people can have enough to eat and live.”

Follow Isabel on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok and read more here.

Rochelle Meaden

Rochelle is an 18 year-old autistic Black feminist from South London. She is an alum of The Advocacy Academy and a co-founder of Fill In The Blanks, a youth-led campaign aiming to make the teaching of colonial history mandatory in schools in England. Over a six month intensive programme, Rochelle learned the basics of community organising theory and, along with five other young people of colour, pulled off an ambitious ‘ad-hack’ stunt to spark a national conversation about what Britain would look like if there was a truly just curriculum. In 2020, she trained in social justice pedagogy and works as an activist youth worker, advising other young people how to launch campaigns.

Disability justice and AIDS activism are two other issues very close to Rochelle’s heart. Going forward, Rochelle hopes to continue organising and also work on building communities where care and mutual aid are centred.

One action Rochelle would like everyone to take:

“I want marginalised people, especially young marginalised people, to not give into pessimism. It is in the interest of those in power to convince us that what we want is ‘too radical’ or ‘not realistic’, but that shouldn’t stop us from fighting for justice anyway. Oppressive systems are able to maintain themselves by depriving people of an imagination, convincing us that a better world is impossible - breaking down those ideas is an important step towards winning the justice we want.”

Follow Fill in the Blanks on Twitter and Instagram, and read an interview with Rochelle with Elle Magazine.

Edelsin Linette Mendez

Edelsin is 18 years-old and from a rural community in Las Sabanas in Nicaragua. She is a university student and coffee farmer.

Edelsin created a film with BYKids called My Beautiful Nicaragua to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on her coffee farming community.

One action Edelsin would like everyone to take:

“I want to continue doing this work to help raise awareness, break our habits and explain through my film the risks we're facing; and through this invite others to take action that is within our reach at a community level, like reforestation and caring for the land.”

Watch My Beautiful Nicaragua here.

Mofiyin Onanuga

Mofiyin Onanuga is an 18 year-old STEM and gender equality activist from the United Kingdom. She is a changemaker, educator, and tech-fanatic. Mofiyin is a Girl Up UNF Teen Advisor and London Coalition Co-President. She’s the Founder of the Teach It In 10 curriculum and interns for the Yes, 1 Billion Kids Can Code initiative, whose mission is to teach over half of the world population of children the skills of the future.

Culture plays a massive role in her life which is why she has developed a love for languages, people and different parts of the world. Mofiyin strongly believes in the power of equipping children with essential technology and coding for livelihood skills. She has hosted events across the world to support young people and inspire them on their activist journeys. She aims to use the powers of STEM and gender equality as anchors to connect as many as she can across the globe. Her podcast Today Is Not Tomorrow is one platform where she does just that.

One action Mofiyin would like everyone to take:

“Make noise because you are heard. Collaborate because an army is 10 times as strong. Join the Girl Up community (you will wish you did so sooner) and join me on my activist journey as we are in this together. Watch out world as we protest, petition and persist until positive change is implemented - Key word here being … WE!”

Follow Girl Up on Instagram and listen to Mofiyin’s podcast.

Emaculate Oscar

Emaculate is a 17 year-old girl raised by a single parent in Jumpha village, Traditional Authority Mkukula, Dowa district, Malawi. She is currently studying at Bzyanzi Secondary School and is passionate about making a change in the lives of girls. Many girls in her community are forced to drop out of school due to poverty, which puts them at risk of child marriage. To help sustain girls' education, she leads a club established by Teams Advancing WOmen in Agriculture (TAWINA) to support girls' literacy and raise awareness of the issues affecting girls.

In 2018 Emaculate became the youngest ever recipient of an award from Southern Africa AIDS Trust.

One action Emaculate would like everyone to take:

“Most of the time, voices of girls of my age are not heard in the community. We are not given a full chance to act or voice our views on issues affecting us. With resources, we could advocate for our participation in high level meetings like Area Development Committees and advocate for a change.”

Hongyi Howey Ou

Howey is an 18 year-old dedicated vegan and minimalist, climate activist, and a Buddhism learner. They initiated Plant For Survival to respond to the backlash of Fridays For Future and Greta Thunberg and motivate natives. Howey has been nominated to attend the 1st UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019. They initiated several successful hunger strikes in Switzerland demanding acquittal for hill defenders who had been sentenced 60 days imprisonment - their goal was meet after 20 days hunger strike. Howey has showed a huge commitment to show radical international solidarity in these critical times of ecological and climate emergency. They are currently in London.

One action Howey would like everyone to take:

"If you are amazed by my work and would like your audience and network to hear my stories, don’t hesitate in invite me to conferences and grassroots meetings. If you can help me to speak in CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) COP15 which takes place in China in April 2022, it would be great help."

Follow Howey on Twitter and Instagram. You can read more about them in this New York Times article.

Selin Özünaldım

Selin is an 18 year-old activist from Turkey. They are the youngest representative of UNWomen’s gender equality movement HeForShe in Turkey. As a Guiding Group member of Transform Education, a youth-led coalition hosted by UNGEI, she aims to transform education for gender equality. Selin is one of the 300 activists who were selected by UN Women to become National Gender Youth Activists. During the summer, she interned at Girl Rising, an NGO that aims to equal access to education through storytelling. She is also the Founder of Girls Who Code Turkey, which focuses on equality in the STEM field.

One action Selin would like everyone to take:

“Sign up to HeForShe!”

Follow Selin on Instagram and Twitter.

Gia Parr

Gia Parr is an 18 year-old national LGBTQ+ advocate, model and actress. She was named as one of GLAAD’s 20 under 20. When Gia transitioned at the start of eighth grade in her small town in Connecticut, the family wrote a “coming out” letter to all the middle school students and their parents. The overwhelming support she received from her community inspired Gia to take her story public as one of the founding Champions of The GenderCool Project, a national storytelling campaign, and as a former youth ambassador for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ+ organization in the world. Gia and her story have been featured on ABC News, Today, The New York Times, People, USA Today and CBS This Morning. She recently published a book called A Kids Book About Being Transgender in partnership with the GenderCool Project. As an aspiring model and actress, Gia was featured as a global ambassador for Nike’s BeTrue campaign, appeared in Gap's Pride campaign and guest starred in the season 2 finale of Pose opposite Mj Rodriguez and Billy Porter. She will take a gap year to continue pursuing modeling and acting, before attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

One action Gia would like everyone to take:

“Please follow, share and, if able, donate to The GenderCool Project.”

Follow Gia on Instagram and watch her Nike’s BeTrue campaign.

Sunaya Amrin Rahman

Sunaya is an 18 year-old High School student from Bangladesh who has been actively working with Rotary International since they were 15. Sunaya Initially served as the first female and youngest"District Interact Representative" (DIR), and are currently serving as the First Female President of Rotaract Club of Tilottoma. Sunaya is a founding member of Vasundhara - South Asia's largest drive on breast cancer and cervical cancer screening, and was awarded 10th Best Committee Member of Rotaract District Woman empowerment Committee for Rotary for 2020-2021. During the Covid pandemic, Sunaya actively led charitable activities including food donation, tree plantation, mental health campaigns and awareness events. She also works on a local street children campaign.

One action Sunaya would like everyone to take:

“I want people to make a change in the way they act against women both domestically and professionally. It should start from home. I want people to normalise women taking over higher positions in society at a young age without facing any harassment.”

Follow Sunaya on Instagram.

With thanks to British Council for their support in identifying inspiring young activist Sunaya.

Iram Rehman & Madeyah Khan

Iram Rehman and Madeyah Khan are 20 year-old activists from Bradford who co-founded Speakers’ Corner - an initiative that stemmed from being WOWsers at WOW Bradford 2016 (WOW’s programme for young people). They currently run the political, creative and social space based in Bradford city centre while studying at university. It's led by a collective of women and girls who develop campaigns, activities and events that are open to everyone. All of their campaigns, activities and events are aimed at bringing people together to create positive action and develop grassroots change.

One action Iram Rehman and Madeyah Khan would like everyone to take:

“Follow our campaigns on social media and help us promote change and positivity around topics such as mental health, body positivity, international activism and more.”

Follow Speakers’ Corner on Instagram, Twitter and read more in this article with The Telegraph and Argus.

Mimi Ronson

Mimi is 16 years-old and the Norfolk Laureate. As a half Indian teenage girl she loves to explore cultural identity within her poetry, creative writing and music. Mimi is a constant advocate for feminism - and incorporates her activism into her creative works, including her music and actions within the school student lead community. The action she is most proud of in recent years is applying and winning a competition to receive funding for Books of Diversity for her school’s English department. Mimi’s main aim is to continue to challenge the lack of diversity - including racial and gender - in the English School Curriculum and spearhead positive change in that area.

One action Mimi would like everyone to take:

“If you’re in education, challenge any parts of the curriculum that you don’t feel are representative of our modern diverse country. Don’t be afraid to promote change, but be constructive and plan what actions you can take to ensure your influence has a positive outcome - your education is something that you have the power to influence! Your voice is the greatest vehicle for change that you have.”

Follow Mimi on Instagram. Watch her perform her award-winning creative piece KAUR in this video (from 17 mins 50 seconds).

Osroush Sabir

Osroush is a 16 year-old student from Mulberry UTC in London. She volunteers for charity Afghan Action, which works to help develop good jobs, sustainable businesses and fair markets in Afghanistan - in order to address poverty and promote stability. Osroush has also undertaken work experience at the Afghanistan Embassy in Britain. She is passionate about taking on leadership roles, including being a house ambassador in Mulberry UTC, Chair of the School Council, Form Captain, and House Captain during her years at Mulberry. When she was in Year 8 she took part in a Science/Engineering challenge, working against other schools to create a series of circuits as a group and design an effective piece of equipment that could be used in space.

One action Osroush would like everyone to take:

“I would love to see visual change and other people taking part in the cause I represent, meaning more people relaying the message of Afghan Action’s work to represent it widely - in addition to signing petitions to further boost the campaign.”

Follow Afghan Action on Instagram and find out more about them here.

Aisha Saleh

Aisha is a 16-year-old Nigerian human rights and girl education advocate. She grew up in a slum community in Lagos (Monkey Village) with her grandmother after her mother’s death when she was age five. She is the leader of the girl empowerment club in her community. She advocates for parents in her community to send their girls to school and end child marriage. She also leads a period poverty campaign, calling for free distribution of free sanitary pads. As a menstrual hygiene ambassador of the child's rights NGO CEE-HOPE she featured in a short campaign documentary 'Give US This Day Our Monthly Pads'.

Her outspokenness after Nigerian immigration officials refused to issue her an international passport to represent her country at the International Child's Right Convention in Geneva in 2019, and the demolition of her community in December 2020, have seen her publicly speaking out against government’s injustice against the urban poor.

Follow CEE-HOPE Nigeria on Instagram and watch an interview with Aisha and Angelina Jolie.

Sanya Sharma

Sanya is 20 years-old and a change maker. They are the Global Founder and Director of Scarlet Udaan, a global youth organisation that aims to raise awareness and work towards ending Female Genital Cutting (FGC) globally. Since its inception, the organisation has raised awareness to over 100,000 people and is a recognised Gender Equality Action Commitment Leader at the United Nations.

Growing up listening to speeches from Michelle Obama (her role model), her quote “Success is about the difference you make in people’s lives” resonated with Sanya deeply. She has worked with intellectual and disability awareness organisations in India for several years. At University, she was a member of a volunteering clinic which raises awareness on forced marriages, honour based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting. The World Health Organisation estimated that 200 million women around the world have undergone FGM/C. Sanya started Scarlet Udaan with the hope that it will pave the way for a world which symbolises the freedom and limitless possibilities that exist for women.

One action Sanya would like everyone to take:

"Own your power, use your voice and take up space. Always dream out loud about the world you wish to live in. Every action you take as a change-maker, no matter how big or small, makes the world a better place and takes us one step closer to our goals."

Follow Scarlet Udaan on Instagram and listen to the organisation's podcast.

Jariatu Sillah

Jariatu is a 19 year-old advocate from Lunsar in Sierra Leone. She believes she can achieve whatever she puts her head to! She is an an advocate who has helped in changing their community in different ways. Jariatu has represented her country in the Pan African Youth Leadership Program in 2017 and has served as the National President for Girl Child Network, as well as a youth panelist for the Takura and Resilience fund.

One action Jariatu would like everyone to take:

“I would like people to start believing in girls and help in ending sexual violence.”

Follow Jariatu on Instagram.

Khadija Uddin

Khadijah is an 18 year-old student living in London. They were introduced to global affairs during her time at secondary school, where she took part in Model United Nations. Always keen to take on a challenge, Khadija has worked on numerous projects for charities that work on issues involving vulnerable people, such as food and sanitation banks for her community. She recently raised close to £15,000 for women's health facilities, specifically maternal care - a cause she cares deeply about. Statistics prove that women of ethnic minority descent are far more likely to suffer antenatal neglect in the UK, and is only more prevalent in developing nations. This has shaped her decision to study Midwifery at university, and she hopes to be at the forefront of improving women's healthcare around the world and being an advocate for all women.

One action Khadijah would like everyone to take:

“Advocating for vulnerable people, especially women, is something we should all do. One way to do this is by actively learning about and researching different cultures.”

Follow Khadijah onInstagram.

Supitcha Chalom

Explore 2020's Young Leaders Directory