Young people are the reason we do what we do. Their potential is enormous – if a little intimidating – for those of us watching these talented beings take on the world and challenge us to be better. For us at Plan International Australia, this is how we generally feel when in the presence of our Youth Activists. These incredible young women are here to learn together how they can channel their skills and passions and drive change with their peers here and across the globe. It’s pretty amazing to witness and help them harness their skills while knowing our most important role at the end of the day – to get out of their way.

For Youth Week, we thought it would be a great chance to introduce you to some of our newest recruits for 2018 and ask them how we as adults, parents, colleagues, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends can help empower young people to make the world their own.

YAS Sydney Millie

Milly Gerstle

What is your vision for the world

My vision for the world is for it to be a place where everyone has the same opportunity to succeed in life, no matter their gender, race, sexuality or other identifying factor. A world where we don’t use our differences to oppress each other but instead we celebrate the diversity in our society.

How can adults support you to lead/ thrive

I believe that adults have a huge role to play, in fostering our ability as youth to take a stand. The first responsibility is in equipping us with the tools we need to understand, analyse and change the world around us. Secondly, and most importantly adults can support us by allowing us to lead. Stepping back and giving us room to speak for ourselves instead of speaking for us.

Who has supported you to get where you are today

Throughout my life I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by adults who have supported me, allowing me to make my own decisions and create my own path. Whether in school where my teachers have valued my opinions, and constantly urged us to ‘take responsibility for our own learning’; or at home, where my parents have instilled in me a strong sense of independence. I have learnt to value and trust my own judgement, and to then stand up and fight for those beliefs.

YAS SydneyKripa 2

Kripa Krithivasan

What is your vision for the world? 

I yearn to see a world where girls, and in particular girls of colour, are seen to be change-makers and leaders without it being rare and newsworthy. It is not news that girls are capable and powerful! 

How can adults help you thrive/achieve? 

Young people cannot move forward without the support of adults. Women cannot move forward without men. If we want to see change happen, we need to engage everyone, to not only support each other, but where appropriate, drive the movement towards empowering young girls. 

Who has supported you to get where you are today? 

I am privileged to have had the support of my family. I will never know how it feels to up and lift everything from your life in a country and move to a new country before having even graduated high school. For this sacrifice, and the countless other sacrifices they have made, I owe my family everything.

YAS SydneyLauren

Lauren Lancaster

What is your vision of the world?

A world that I, along with all other people, live in with a constant awareness of the people, environment and cultures that surround us. My vision of the world is one in which our leaders work cooperatively, in the interests of humanity and future generations, to eradicate inequality of all kinds, preserve our natural world, innovate and promote peace.

How can adults support you to lead/thrive?

Adults can connect young people like me to decision makers, or if they are those in power, they can respect and listen to our voices on issues that concern us (which is practically everything!). I think they can also encourage us, as parents or support figures, to develop our interests and keep an open mind. Travelling definitely helps too, even just getting out of your home town to see new people and places!

Who has supported you to get to where you are today?

My parents are always encouraging me to chase opportunities and have fostered a strong sense of social justice in me since I was very young. My mother is such an important part of my life because she is a driven, amazing woman who inspires me every single day and has given me the strength and skills to overcome challenges and push for what I believe in.  As a Year 12 student, my school and teachers also support many of my interests, which makes it worthwhile to explore social justice in and out of school, and they connect all of us to a network of people available for support and mentoring. There are so many opportunities out there for young people, the more exposure we have to these and the more connections we make with those who can support us, the further we come!

YAS SydneyAlice

Alice Rummery

What is your vision for the world?

I believe that education, empathy and action are the keys to social justice throughout the world. I envisage a world in which these three components work in harmony to make a tangible impact on inequality. Where everyone is educated on societal problems and what they can do about them, continually empathetic to these issues, and, thus, act to change these issues in an effective way.

How can adults support you to lead/thrive?

I think the most important thing that adults can do for young people is lead by example. Throughout my childhood and into my young adulthood, I have constantly been inspired by adults that actively work towards a better world. Talk about social issues with young people, explain politics, activism and power structures. Young people are a lot more interested in and capable of understanding complex problems than you think!

Who has supported to you get where you are today?

I have always been very inspired by my parents, who have always kept me engaged and interested in social justice issues. My mother has always been a keen activist and has dedicated her life to helping people experiencing disadvantage. My father is an avid conversationalist, and we have had more discussions about politics, the world, inequality and social justice than I can count. They both definitely sparked my deep passion for equality and curiosity of its complexity!

YAS MelbournePragya

Pragya Singh

What is your vision for the world?

My vision for the world is that we can all learn to love each other. I want a world in which a little girl can dare to dream and believe to achieve everything that her brother can. A world where education for little kids is not a dream but the norm. I know that's a huge statement to make but I would really want to see and live in a world with no war, no discrimination on the basis of caste creed, colour, religion and SEX. I want a world where being a feminist is just how people are, and not criticised for being one. I just want a world of love because love is love is love and there ain't anything more powerful than that.

How can adults support you to lead/thrive?

I think adults can support us by teaching us from their experience and giving us the push to actually bring a change. Most adults can basically just help us by changing their thinking, it would make things so much easier. Us millennials are out there trying to change the world, we just need the path to be cleared and we'll be fine.

Who has supported to you get where you are today?

My family. Definitely. Especially my father. He is my number one fan and my number one supporter. He has always encouraged me to push my boundaries and be the best version of myself. The person I am today is because of him.

YAS Melbourne6Maddie

Maddie Spencer

What is your vision for the world?

I want to help shape a world in which women and girls are fearless. A world where women are able to move freely, feel deserving of accolades and success and are not afraid of what the world will do to them, but instead how they can shape and create a world they want to live in. I want to work towards eradicating sexual violence and harassment as well as smashing patriarchal norms.

How can adults support you to lead/thrive?

I think it is incredibly important for adults to not try and undermine idealism. I hear so often that sexual violence has always and will always exist, insinuating that there’s no point in trying to stop it. Believing in someone’s idealism and offering encouragement and support can be incredibly powerful. Believing that the impossible could be possible is the first step in making change.

Who has supported to you get where you are today?

My mother has always been a hugely supportive person in my life, her passion, optimism and kindness has shaped me both personally and my politics. She has always encouraged me to understand other points of view, to challenge my own perspectives and to treat everyone with respect and tolerance no matter their own personal beliefs. She has always encouraged me and listened to my ideas without judgement.

YAS MelbourneRuvimbo

Ruvimbo Togara

What is your vision for the world?

My vision for the world is to live in a world that promotes equality and a world that is rid of poverty giving people equal opportunities to be capable contributors to the world.

How can adults support you to lead/thrive?

Adults can help me to lead and thrive by giving me the opportunities to do so. Also by being super supportive and encouraging me to be able to lead + thrive.

Who has supported to you get where you are today?

My parents have been my biggest supporters and have always believed in me. They have definitely been a great motivators and have inspired be to be a confident individual.

You’ll be hearing more from our Youth Activists throughout the year as they tackle the issues that matter to them and their peers. There are countless young people doing inspiring things here and all over the globe. They might not be front page of the papers (or our social media feeds) but they’re making an impact in their own way. We want to hear your stories of the young women in your circles making the world a better place. Share your #sheinspiresme stories on social media!

We’re bringing together a community that is raising global citizens by sharing knowledge and experiences and empowering young people to reach their full potential. If you’d like to be a part of it, sign up here.


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