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Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, made headlines when she delivered a scathing speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Though she sparked a major moment for the youth climate change movement, her speech was just the latest in years of young activists pushing for change across a wide spectrum of political issues.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, sparked a massive online response when she delivered a scathing speech at the United Nations General Assembly to shame leaders from around the world for their inaction on climate change.
Though Thunberg's brazen comments to the leaders marked a pivotal moment for youth involvement in climate change advocacy, young activists have been bucking the norms for years to spark change among their peers and leaders alike on issues including gun control, education, and LGBTQ rights.
Activists have come from diverse backgrounds that include Hollywood, the aftermath of a school shooting, and Taliban-ruled Pakistan, but see how they've all earned global reputations.
Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui, 23, youth advocacy
After an impressive academic career that includes a bachelor's degree from New York University Abu Dhabi and becoming the United Arab Emirates' first Rhodes Scholar, which earned her a master's in public policy from the University of Oxford, Mazrui was appointed as Minister of State for Youth Affairs when she was 22.
The nod earned her a spot on the 2018 Forbes Middle East Arab 30 under 30 list, but she describes her role as a much larger effort to empower young people in the UAE to be active in their society and government.
"In the UAE, Arab youth are similar to youth around the world," Mazrui told the Los Angeles Times of how she seeks to boost fellow young people's abilities. "They all want to go to the best universities. They all want to have stable careers. They want lives of purpose and they want to feel part of a cohesive community and family."
Malala Yousafzai, 22, women's and girl's education
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Yousafzai was an activist long before she became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history in 2014, but she's since become a household name.
Growing up in Pakistan under Taliban occupation, Yousafzai's family ran a chain of schools, which inspired her impassioned and public defense of women's education, that included the then-11-year-old writing a blog post under a pen name for the BBC and starring in a New York Times documentary about life in the middle of military occupation.
However, her outspoken spirit earned her enemies in the Taliban and in October 2012, Yousafzai was shot on a school bus. She not only survived the attack, but also became the center of an international movement to support her that led Taliban officials to announce a possible second assassination attempt.
She later published her first book, "I Am Malala." Yousafzai and her family have since moved to the United Kingdom, where she is currently studying at Oxford.
Parkland shooting survivors, various ages, gun control
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David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Emma González, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind were at the center of a massive youth movement for gun control after surviving a massacre that killed 17 of their classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The five teenagers sparked the #NeverAgain movement, which saw thousands of students walk out of school in a massive nationwide youth protest that swelled behind causes like stricter gun regulation and a general increase in youth participation in politics and policy.
The students have gone on to continue their work as vocal advocates for advancing gun policies and youth participation through online campaigns, media appearances, and speaking tours.
Yara Shahidi, 19, women's and girl's engagement
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Shahidi first entered the spotlight as a young actress but came into her own right as an activist after taking on issues like diversity in Hollywood and female empowerment in education.
She formed Yara's Club in partnership with The Young Women's Leadership School, which sets up digital hangouts for high school students together to discuss and confront social issues.
Shahidi also worked on former first lady Michelle Obama's Let Girls Learn education initiative before Obama provided her with a letter of recommendation that contributed to her road to undergraduate studies at Harvard University.
Jamie Margolin, 17, climate change
Margolin began organizing lobbying efforts and public demonstrations at the age of 14 in her hometown of Seattle, Washington before she grew frustrated with the lack of engagement and response to enacting real change to address climate change.
She then founded "Zero Hour," a youth-led climate action group that seeks to emphasize the urgency of the effects of climate change on communities across the world and organizes marches, summits, and demonstrations put on in partnership with other youth organizations, including their July youth summit in Miami and September's Global Climate Week of Action.
Greta Thunberg, 16, climate change awareness
Thunberg was first pictured sitting alone outside Swedish parliament in a strike that she hoped would raise alarms among lawmakers. Soon, she had spurred an international movement of students striking on behalf of climate change.
She later moved her on-the-ground protests for official action on climate change to water, sailing across the Atlantic from her native Sweden to New York City on a zero-emissions sailboat to march with a crowd of more than 60,000 people before delivering a scathing speech at the United Nations General Assembly to shame leaders for their inaction on climate change.
Thunberg was nominated in March 2019 for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, and the winner will be announced in October 2019.
Isra Hirsi, 16, climate change awareness
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Hirsi is the eldest daughter of prominent Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, but she's earned a reputation in her own right as a climate change activist.
After learning about the sharp racially divided effects of climate change, then-15-year-old Hirsi sprung into action to get climate change on the official agendas of local and national lawmakers.
In January 2019, Hirsi founded the US Youth Climate Strike group, an American chapter of a global climate activist movement. In her role as executive director, Hirsi has been a key part of activating a chapter to join the estimated 1.6 million students across 120 countries to skip school in March to demand official action on climate change and spoke at the Minneapolis march as part of the global climate strike on September 20.
Marley Diaz, 14, diverse representation
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Dias is the founder of the #1000blackgirlbooks campaign, which she started when she was 11 in 2015 to collect and donate 1,000 books to her peers that featured black girls as the main characters when she was "sick of reading about white boys and dogs," she told her mom.
The campaign was a massive success, and she's since been honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. In January 2018, she published a book to inspire other potential activists titled "Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!"
She told the Chicago Tribune in 2018 that even as a published author, her initial mission remains intact as she wants to create and share stories to "be reflected for the black girls who are reading them, so they can identify themselves and learn about their history" as well as "open up to people who are different, to understand and to see and grow from those things we don't understand."
Desmond is Amazing, 12, LGBTQ youth visibility
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Desmond Napoles first caught eyes when videos of him vogueing at the 2015 New York Pride parade went viral, and he's continued to make waves as a performing drag artist and LGBTQ activist that RuPaul once called "the future of America."
His colorful appearances alongside some of the most provocative public figures in fashion and drag have drawn controversy, but he has been lauded by various media outlets and social rights organizations for his work, which he publicly touts his commitment to inspire fellow tweens and adults alike to "be yourself always, no matter what."
Mari Copeny, 11, water access
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Copeny, who is also known as "Little Miss Flint," shot to fame when she was eight years old in March 2016 when she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. After reading her letter, Obama flew to Flint and shined a national spotlight on the crisis.
After her big presidential moment, Copeny has continued her work, including in ads for the Peoples Climate March and starting the hashtag #WednesdaysForWater, in which she sends out a weekly alert about places in need of clean water. Copeny's partnership with a water-filtration company also facilitates drinkable water in deprived communities.