10 Children Who Are Changing The World

Bringing change takes time. But some children prove that it’s never too early to try and save the world. While most engage in play, these children are tackling world issues. Remarkable indeed!

By Vanshika Devuni Kalanidhi

10 Children Who Are Changing The World
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

As a teenager interested in current affairs and activism, I want to make a change, make the world a better place. Unfortunately, in most cases, teens are not taken seriously. Adults oversee making changes, not children and teens. I can vote, attend protests, and much more but, when I grow up.

However, history has shown us time and again that the youth is capable, and the youth is strong. From the legendary Joan of Arc (a 15th-century French warrior who lead France to victory before age nineteen) to the current poster girl of climate change Greta Thunberg (a climate activist), young generations have proven themselves to be the harbingers of justice and peace. Anyone, even little children, can make a change if they put their mind to it. Age, gender, race, caste, and all else become obsolete when determination is at play.

This list explores ten brilliant young minds who have made incredible contributions to human rights, sustainable development, and various other fields. They are paragons of change and set a great example as to how you can hone your child’s fighter spirit.

1. Marley Dias

10 Children Who Are Changing The World
"It was the desire to see black girls and our experiences in the books that I was given to read at school that forced me to speak my truth. I launched #1000BlackGirlBooks, a book drive to collect the stories of women of color."

Who: American activist and the mastermind behind #1000BlackGirlBooks

What did she do?

A voracious reader and a woman of colour, Marley Dias noticed a glaring fact – there were not many books that focused on her community. Tired of being underrepresented, this 11-year-old girl started a drive called #1000BlackGirlBooks, which focused on books with black female protagonists. Black women play lead roles in these books; they aren’t cast as side-characters with little to no agency. The drive aimed to collect 1000 such books to donate to black girls. Dias, now 15, has been listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has been awarded Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award in the Youth category.

2. Greta Thunberg

10 Children Who Are Changing The World
"We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself."

Who? A Swedish environmentalist on climate change

What did she do?

Today, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg is one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. Concerned by the growing threat of climate change, she initially started protesting outside the Swedish parliament. Little did she know that this would lead to a sort of climate revolution that would engulf the entire world. After demanding the government act against climate change, she organised school strikes and protests to fight for the same. She soon rose to popularity as the face of the climate movement. Her legendary “how dare you” speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit has inspired many youngsters to join the fight against climate change.

3. Malala Yousafzai

10 Children Who Are Changing The World
“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” Malala Yousufzai

Who? Child activist, and the youngest Nobel laureate

What did she do?

If Greta Thunberg is the poster girl of climate change, Malala Yousafzai is a champion of education for girls. In a spate of unfortunate incidents, her education was threatened when the Taliban took over her home in Swat Valley, Pakistan and banned girls from going to school. Still, she continued fighting for her right to education.

She took a bullet for girls’ education when she was fifteen years old. Her movement became a global phenomenon, and the Taliban faced international condemnation. After her miraculous recovery, she set up the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that fights for girls’ education. At seventeen, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became the youngest person to do so. She continues fighting for education, migration, and womens’ rights.

4. Leah Namugerwa

"Adults are not willing to offer leadership, so I offer myself."

Who? Ugandan climate activist

What did she do?

Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s climate movement, fifteen-year-old Leah Namugerwa participated and represented the Ugandan climate movement. She protested for stricter climate action every Friday, as part of a global project called ‘Fridays for the Future’. Soon, she rallied up many other Ugandans supporting the cause. She aims to build awareness about climate change and urges the government to enforce the climate refugee bill. She has made strides in the Ugandan climate movement and continues fighting for a more sustainable future.

5. Emma Gonzalez

10 Children Who Are Changing The World
“It’s time for victims to be the change we need to see” Emma Gonzalez

Who? School shooting survivor and gun-control activist

What did she do?

When she was a high school senior, Emma Gonzalez survived a devastating and life altering school shooting. Shaken but not defeated, she began fighting for more effective gun-control laws. She co-founded Never Again MSD, a gun-control advocacy group. Her “We call BS” speech went viral, and Gonzalez received both support and criticism. In the speech, Gonzalez “called BS” on the lack of response by government officials being funded by the NRA (National Rifle Association). She helped organise the March For Our Lives, a student-led demonstration against gun violence. Her movement shed light on school shootings and the sedated response by the government.

6. Om Prakash Gurjar

“If a bonded child laborer like me could see a dream of a world free from exploitation, so why not you?”

Who? An activist against child labour

What did he do?

As a young boy, Om Prakash Gurjar was forced to work on a farm where he had to face a lot of hardships and struggle. He could not get an education until he received help from Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a program set up by Nobel laureate Kailash Sathyarthi. Fuelled by his experiences, he worked hard to promote primary education and spread awareness against child labour. He received the International Children's Peace Prize in 2006, at the age of fourteen. He later set up an organization called Paatshala, which aims to provide education to all children and protect them from forced labour or child marriage.

7. Yash Gupta

“Kids are passionate and can make a difference. It’s just a matter of finding out what you care about and focusing on that.”

Who? Creator of a non-profit organization to help the visually-challenged

What did he do?

One day, while practicing taekwondo, Yash Gupta broke his glasses and had difficulty practicing. This incident made him realise the importance of vision and especially, glasses. After doing some research, he came to know that 13 million visually challenged children world-wide did not use glasses as they could not afford them. Just fourteen, Gupta started an organization called Sight Learning. He faced many challenges in the beginning, but he faced them with gusto. For example, he made money tutoring kids in his spare time and used the money to fund his non-profit. To date, his organisation has distributed over 22,000 pairs of glasses to students in India, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and the US.

8. Amika George

"It's time periods got a makeover."

Who? A feminist fighting against period poverty.

What did she do?

After realizing that many women could not afford to pay for menstrual products, seventeen-year-old Amika George started her #FreePeriods campaign. When students can’t afford menstrual products, they miss some days at school. This means that “period poverty”, as George terms it, is not just a womens’ issue, it is an education and child rights issue as well. Thus, she urged the government to provide free menstrual products (like pads and tampons) at schools. Following several protests, the UK government announced its decision to provide these commodities at schools. George also fights the taboo surrounding menstruation and urges men to be a part of the conversation. She is currently a student at Cambridge University.

9. Advay Ramesh

“Winning the Google Community Impact Award means a lot to me, it would help me learn more and develop my idea further."

Who: An innovator making a difference to fishermen in India

What did he do?

Advay Ramesh, a class 10 student from Chennai, is the winner of the Google Community Impact Award 2016. This award recognises and honours innovations that make a difference in the community. Ramesh is the only Asian to win this award so far. His project – FELT (FishErman Lifetime Terminal) uses GPS signals to keep fishermen away from international maritime waters and subsequently saves them from paying avoidable fines. It also alerts them of bad weather conditions and enables them to retreat to safety. He was awarded a handsome £10,000 in funding, and a mentorship from Scientific American. He was inspired to work on his project after hearing about Tamil Nadu fishermen who were roped into paying fines for unknowingly crossing into international borders.

10. Arav Hak

"You should not give up too easily. There will be many people who will tell you ‘no’. But that’s your cue to go and find more people who will say ‘yes’ and contribute.”

Who? A teenager raising money for young cancer patients

What did he do?

Arav Hak has raised over 9 lakhs for children battling cancer. His movement gained some traction after being featured on the popular Humans of Bombay Facebook page. He arranged a movie screening for the patients and is set to run the Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon, a cancer awareness run. As far as finances go, he encourages donations and raises money from family and friends – all this while still in school and busy with studies.

All the money goes to the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation, which helps underprivileged people with cancer. His compassion knows no bounds.

These young, innovative minds are evident in the truth, justice, innocence, and compassion in every child. They are proof that everyone pangs for a better world, even children. To encourage the next generation to fight for the world they want to live in, listen to what they have to say. The next time your child proposes a new idea or expresses frustration about the world, don’t dismiss them! Who knows? Maybe your child will grow up to be the next Greta Thunberg.

About the Author:

Written by Vanshika Devuni Kalanidhi on 23 January 2020.

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