Today is International Day of the Girl! And teen girl activists are stepping up to advocate for the planet. Greta Thunberg’s activism has gone viral. From throwing Donald Trump the deadliest stare at the UN General Assembly to sailing across the ocean in a emission-free racing yacht to literally scolding the world’s most powerful leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit, this young girl is inspiring millions.
At just 16 years old, Greta has been at the forefront of a global movement involving mainly high school and middle school students, skipping school to protest over the climate crisis. She has been a strong leader for them, unashamed of her age, gender, or diagnosis; proud of her place in the neurodiverse community, calling her Asperger’s a “superpower.”
But Greta Thunburg is not the only young climate activist giving political leaders the side eye and inspiring revolutions. There are other young women, specifically young women of color, who are fighting alongside Greta for the future of our planet. On this International Day of the Girl, we are highlighting 3 young girls of color who are defying the odds through their fierce activism.
Autumn Peltier is a 15-year-old Canadian Water Warrior and member of the Wilemikong First Nation. She has been fighting for water rights since she was eight years old, when she saw a sign warning about toxic water on the Serpent River Reservation.
Autumn has a strong voice, and she’s used it at over 200 events and to confront Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his “broken promises.” She also spoke at the UN Headquarters alongside Greta saying, “I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, we can’t eat money, or drink oil.”
This June she was appointed as the new Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner, and she lets her culture and tradition shape her environmentalism, paying respect the earth through ceremony and song.
Mari Copeny began fighting for water rights at the age of eight, when she wrote to President Barack Obama to visit her community, Flint, Michigan, and to meet those affected by the contaminated water. This meeting won Flint $100 million in grants to repair the water system and gave Mari the nickname, Little Miss Flint.
With over 79 thousand Instagram followers, Little Miss Flint has gained a strong following, and has become an inspiration to other kids to make a difference, no matter their age or race.
“Obama was once a Black kid with a dream, and he was able to achieve it, so I can, too,” she says. “When I’m president, I’ll make sure I use my voice to speak for the people—especially kids.”
Xiye Bastida first saw the effects of climate change when her hometown, San Pedro Tultepe, Mexico, suffered through a prolonged drought, followed by heavy rain and flooding. Xiye had grown up believing in the Otomi indigenous mentality that “if you take care of the earth, it will take care of you.” She could tell that something had disrupted the natural balance of that environment. When her family moved to New York City, and she saw first hand the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy, and she realized that climate change was affecting everyone and every place.
At just 17, Xiye is one of the main leaders of the youth climate movement. She, alongside Greta, works with Fridays for Future and has helped mobilize thousands of students to skip school and protest. Her Instagram bio has her down as a Climate Justice Activist, and she’s fighting not only to fix climate change, but also give a voice to the marginalized groups that are being most affected.
“People talk about the environmental movement as having started 60 years ago. But indigenous people have been taking care of the earth for thousands of years because that’s part of their culture. Indigenous peoples’ role is really to voice that they have accommodated… mindfulness and sustainability in their daily lives. They have to communicate how they do it for people who are completely foreign to that.”
International Day of the Girl exists to honor the battles girls face everyday globally. Whether it’s fighting for educational rights, bodily autonomy, or for the protection of the environment, teen girl activists can be an unstoppable force.
There are more than 1.1 billion girls on the planet alive today. Help support them by donating to organizations focused on girl’s secondary education, like LiveYourDream.org. Studies say investing in girls can be the most “cost-effective and best investment against climate change” out there.
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Victoria Ward is an Atlanta based writer with a passion for women’s empowerment. She’s the head editor for Release the Women, a blog that elevates the stories of women in her community, and she’s excited to be working with LiveYourDream.org to further share content that encourages and inspires.