The stereotype about millennials being lazy, and self-absorbed is well and truly due to be put to bed. Mainly because as a millennial I have a short attention span and these stereotypes have been around for years. But also because as you yourself will know if you have millennials in your life – whether you raised them, are friends with them, work with them, or have asked them how to get an animated GIF to work in an email – the usual criticisms aimed at millennials are just not true. We are surrounded by millennials (and Gen Z-ers!) who are quick to adapt, inclusive, savvy and will work hard at the things we care about: our rights and the rights of others.
At Plan International it’s our job to be inspired by young people and learn what role we can play to help build their confidence, address injustices and inequalities that hold them back, and to amplify their impact.
So to celebrate International Youth Day on August 12 we want to introduce you to some incredible young people across the globe who are putting the millennial stereotype in the bin.
“In Malawi people look at a child and they see a bride.”
That’s what Memory told the world when she and her fellow campaigners set about closing a loophole in the law that meant girls as young as 15 could still be married off by their parents. Before that that she’d been a passionate campaigner for five years in the fight to raise the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years old. “My voice became unstoppable. My voice became a weapon for change.” So in the face of this loophole, another barrier that meant children could still be brides, Memory and hers peers didn’t stop. They worked in their community and mobilised people across the globe to join their movement, and through this incredible effort they changed the constitution to outlaw child marriage once and for all. That doesn’t mean their work is done though. Now Memory is working to raise awareness in communities about the law change, proving once again that they’re unstoppable.
After taking part in Plan International’s Champions of Change program Emmanuel has been campaigning to challenge negative attitudes towards girls and women. He posts positive messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about gender inequality and has written songs that he shares on YouTube about ending child marriage and teen pregnancy. Through his campaigning, Emmanual has been able to change people’s perceptions and get them to take action. After engaging with 17-year-old Ivan who held deeply negative attitudes towards women Emmanuel was able to shift his thinking: “After several conversations, his mindset began to change. He now recognises that women have a positive contribution to make in society and is helping me to campaign for other boys to also change their attitudes.”
At just 13-years-old, Sanita stopped her own child marriage. Now she’s a champion for girls’ rights and a role model in her community. At 13, when her parents were struggling to support her they saw marriage as the solution. “I asked my parents, ‘How much am I worth? If you stop the marriage and let me continue with my education, I will pay back all of the money that you spent on me. If you force me to marry, then nothing will come of me’.” Sanita supported herself through uni and went to Japan to meet with members of the Asian Development Bank to promote girls’ rights. Now her parents can see what she has achieved and other parents in her community say to their kids “You must be like Sanita. She is brave, smart and graduated from university.”
Pragya’s grandfather always said “It’s not how big a change you make that matters, it’s the fact that you made a change that matters.”
Pragya is fiercely driving change that matters for women here and across the globe. Born in India, she’s studying to fulfil her dream of being a journalist in Australia. As one of our Youth Activists, a part time blogger “and ranter” and a full-time feminist, Pragya recognises that the fight for equality is a global one. Growing up as an only girl child in India, she knows many women are still fighting for basic rights, but it was only through living abroad that she saw that inequality is everywhere. Through our Youth Activist Series, Pragya is helping to make public spaces safer. Pragya and our activists in Melbourne have been supporting and providing insight our work with Metro Trains Melbourne so that young women can feel safe catching public transport in their city. Watch this space!
Every hour a girl or woman is trafficked in Nepal. Sabina and Sarita live on the open border with India where girls just like them were being trafficked by people who would offer jobs or pretend to be their boyfriends and then exploit them. They rallied 40,000 supporters to their cause and stood in front of their new Mayor to ask for a massive public awareness campaign to protect girls from trafficking – and they won! Now their action will pave the way for leaders across Nepal to do the same and put an end to trafficking.
To us, young people are the key to seeing a world that values equality, creativity, innovation, learning, and standing up for human beings everywhere. We’re just here to help them get there. The future looks pretty bright to us. Find out more about our work with young people (and get involved yourself!).
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.