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7 inspirational global activists you probably haven’t heard of yet

Young activists holding up a sign that says protect kids from guns.

Greta Thunberg is the trailblazing climate change activist on everyone’s lips at the moment, and rightly so. Principled, impassioned and brave, her insistence on speaking truth to power has put the climate crisis on the front pages and has inspired millions around the globe to take action. 

But Greta isn’t the only activist making their mark right now. Across the globe, hundreds of inspirational young people are tackling issues in fearless ways. From a rapper speaking out against child brides to a DJ getting London’s youth up on their feet, here are a few amazing activists you need to follow now…

Befeqadu Hailuilu

Befeqadu Hailu is an Ethiopian writer and activist who has covered many examples of brutality and human rights violations carried out by the Ethiopan state. His novel, Children of Their Parents, won the 2012 Burt Award for African Literature, but Hailu was thrown behind bars for his writing, charged with ‘terrorism’. 

At the time, he stated: “an artist, in my understanding of the word, should side with the people against the Emperor that oppresses his or her people.” He continued to write from behind bars and is now defending himself on the downgraded charge of ‘inciting violence through writing.’ He was recently named International Writer of Courage by the PEN Pinter Prize Ceremony.

Sonita Alizdeh

Sonita Alizdeh is an Afghan rapper and activist who speaks out against forced marriages – an ongoing problem in her place of birth. She gained attention for her Brides for Sale video, where she raps about daughters being sold into marriage. She documented her remarkable story in the film Sonita, where she filmed her escape from a marriage her parents were planning for her. In 2015 she was listed as one of the BBC’s 100 women.

Charlie Dark

Charlie Dark is a DJ, poet and mentor who founded Run Dem Crew in 2006 as a running club for people who didn’t consider themselves runners. Run Dem Crew has grown from a casual run around the neighbourhood with friends to an organisation committed to uplifting young people and presenting London’s urban areas as safe, unique, positive and supportive environments.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous environmental activist and hip hop artist currently based in Colorado. Since he was 6, Martinez has fought bravely for climate protections, and gave three TED talks when he was still a teenager on the UN’s climate change policy. 

He’s particularly focused on the devastating impact climate change will have upon indigenous and marginalised communities, and is one of 21 plaintiffs involved in the Juliana v. United States case, suing the US federal government for failing to act on climate change.

Amariyanna Copeny

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny (born 2007), also known as Little Miss Flint, is a youth activist from Flint, Michigan. She is best known for raising awareness about Flint’s ongoing water crisis – whereby Flint River water was treated improperly, causing lead from old pipes to leak into and contaminate the water supply. She is currently fundraising to support the underprivileged children in the area. 

When she was just 8, it was her letter to Barack Obama that drew attention to the huge water crisis in her hometown. Obama responded with a letter in which he said “kids like you are what makes me optimistic about the future,” and eventually authorised $100 million to help fix the crisis.

Annie Segarra

Annie Elainey is a YouTuber, artist, and activist for LGBT and disability rights, located in Miami. Elainey, who herself is queer and disabled, advocates for accessibility, body positivity, and better representation of margianalised communities in the media. She often speaks at schools on the subject of body positivity, and frequently vlogs about her recovery from an eating disorder.

Melati & Isabel Wijsen

These super sisters founded the ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ initiative in 2013 in Bali, Indonesia. Since then, it’s grown into a huge youth-led organisation that continues to fight single use plastics. The girls were instrumental in pushing Bali to declare themselves a plastic bag free island. The girls continue to fight for plastic regulations globally; Indonesia has since announced plans to go plastic bag free by 2021.

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