Skip to main content

The young activists fighting for gender equality and climate action

19th December 2023 - 5 minute read
Joanna Biernat
is Stories and Content Officer at Plan International UK.

Joanna Biernat is Stories and Content Officer at Plan International UK.

“A girl has the right to express herself, to say what is wrong and what needs to change,” says Bintou, 23.  

She’s not the only one fighting for girls’ rights to be recognised.  

From breaking off child marriages in Vietnam, to tackling the climate crisis in rural Ecuador. Girls around the world are leading action for a safer future.

Blessing, Elodie, Sen, Bintou and Pamela are five youth activists who have stood up, spoken out, and shown their communities the way forward. Find out how their everyday youth activism is changing the world. 

“We changed the law” 

Blessing, 17, sitting in a chair wearing a Plan Internation t-shirt in Sierra Leone.
Blessing, 17 is from Sierra Leone.

“I'm someone that likes to stand up for others. I take it very seriously. Girls have so much potential, but they're not given the platform to exhibit this potential.” 

Blessing, 17, from Sierra Leone, helped pass a new law in her country.  

Last year, she leveraged a Girls' Takeover of the Sierra Leone Parliament to raise awareness of gender equality. These takeovers see girls experience leadership positions and are organised by Plan International to celebrate International Day of the Girl.  

Blessing and her peers used their moment to raise the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Bill. The Bill aimed to improve social and economic conditions and increase political representation for women in Sierra Leone. 

A month later, Blessing saw the Bill pass into law:

“It was just an amazing experience for me. I felt so accomplished, and I felt that the hard work did not go to waste. The Act that we have now, is safeguarding the future for us, the girls. Women had been sidelined, but now they're on the frontline of politics.” 

Thanks to Blessing and the Bill,  more women were selected by the President into Parliamentary posts in Sierra Leone’s most recent elections. 

Blessing isn’t stopping anytime soon and dreams of becoming a lawyer or President: 

“Advocacy and activism is a passion that lives in me, and I'll do it to the end. I'll always do it, even as an old lady in the future.” 

Campaigning for national change 

Campaigning for national change
Elodie, 17, UK.

Through Plan International UK’s Crime Not Compliment campaign, Elodie, 17, was one of many youth activists who campaigned to protect girls from all forms of public sexual harassment.  

From speaking at events to contacting her MP, Elodie helped bring about a new bill that will become UK law: 

“I feel proud to have been part of creating national change. 

“I think that decision makers needed to hear directly from determined young people who’d had enough, to shock them into realising that it doesn’t have to be this way and no one should feel afraid or embarrassed to walk around in public.

“Campaigning for change with other young people has completely changed my perspective on the world. It has shown me that none of us are alone in our negative experiences and they can be transformed into a force for positive change. 

“Speaking truth to power has given me so much confidence. Before this, I didn’t think I could be taken seriously and I underestimated the power of young people coming together. If I can be part of a national campaign, I can do anything.”  

The confident climate activist 

The confident climate activist
Pamela, 17, Ecuador.

Pamela, 17, is one young person dedicated to changing the climate story. In her home country of Ecuador, landslides, droughts, floods and earthquakes are now a daily risk due to the climate emergency. 

Pamela first stepped up with the 1,000 actions for a change challenge

“As part of this activity, I helped create community gardens, reduce plastic consumption and introduce recycling and cleaning days, among other things. This experience helped me discover my love for the environment. I also produced several videos promoting environmental awareness which I have shared online.” 

Pamela also took part in Plan International’s leadership school project, which helped her channel her environmental passion with more confidence:. 

“My way of thinking has evolved. At the beginning, I was very shy, but I later learnt to speak without fear and was able to break my own barriers.” 

Pamela’s next project is to promote environmental awareness in her village by creating murals drawn by children and young people from her rural community: 

“I feel very capable of demonstrating my potential and making big changes in my community.” 

The sponsored child ending child marriage 

The sponsored child ending child marriage 
Sen, 20, Vietnam.

“It is unfair to deny us girls the chance to live our own lives,” says Sen, 20, from Vietnam. 

Sen was 10 years old when her parents arranged a marriage agreement for her.

“Knowing that I’d be sent off to another family at a moment’s notice felt like having an invisible shackle, tying me down and stopping me from truly living my life.” 

But as a sponsored child with Plan International, Sen found the support she needed to resist.  

“I gradually became more confident, I was able to reach out to my peers and ask for support from my teachers and community leaders to help stop my marriage. It wasn’t easy, but finally my family decided to return the dowry and call off my marriage.”  

Now 20, Sen often returns to her hometown and facilitates sessions that build girls’ confidence and help them understand their rights – sessions like the ones that helped her.   

“I work closely with school teachers and local leaders to enhance the community’s effort to eliminate child, early and forced marriage. 

“I hope my story can motivate others to take control and have agency over their own future.” 

Educating girls in crisis 

Educating girls in crisis
Bintou, 23, Niger.

"In our communities, girls are raised to be housewives. They are subjected to traditions that have been there since the dawn of time. We want to change this by starting with ourselves and then teaching other girls and parents,” says Bintou, 23. 

Bintou lives in Niger, one of four countries in Africa which border Lake Chad. People living in the lake’s surrounding area are in the middle of a complex crisis. The story of Bintou’s community is one of conflict, climate change, hunger, disease and displacement. 

Bintou took part in a youth leadership project in the area run by Plan International. Nearly 300 young people received training in public speaking, life skills, advocacy and conflict management. Now she’s giving back, as a confident trainer herself: 

"It's not about providing material or financial assistance that will eventually run out, but rather about enabling young people to become the actors of change. 

"I am currently conducting a mentoring programme in three communities, to help other girls express themselves freely. I have trained six girls and I supervise them in training other girls. We boost these girls confidence. I tell them that if I can do it, they can do it too!” 

Sponsor a child: light the spark that transforms children’s lives 

Blessing, Elodie, Pamela, Sen, and Bintou’s stories are just a few from young people determined to change the world.  

Kick start change and create opportunities for another budding young activist. By sponsoring a child, you can light the spark that sets their ambition alight, and helps communities transform the lives of children, particularly girls.  

Find out more about sponsoring a child today.