Ever thought about how you can change the world? Well, get inspired by these five young women. They are bent on making the world a better place, before turning 25. See how they are blazing trails beyond their fields of work.
- Malala Yousafzai, 21
Malala is famously known for her activism in Pakistani women’s education. At 17, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner (2014).
A year before, the Pakistani student activist marked her 16th birthday at the UN, where she delivered a speech advocating free education for every child.
The moment marked a defiant comeback from 2012 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban, which opposed her activism. In fact, when she was just 11, the young crusader had called out the terror cell for denying students the right to attend school. The failed assassination attempt sparked international outrage and support for Malala.
Now, she spearheads Malala Fund, a global NGO that aims to secure a free, safe and quality education for every girl.
Among its donors include Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, and tech giant Apple, which agreed to support 100,000 girls across Latin America and India. In June, the World Bank and G7 nations also poured nearly USD3 billion into her charity, to put more girls in school over the next few years.
- Kanchan Amatya, 23
The 23-year-old Nepalese has been honoured by the Clinton Foundation for fighting poverty on fish farms in rural Nepal.
The Sustainable Fish Farming Initiative, started by Kanchan, aims to uplift poor women farmers in South Asia. Farmers there live on less than USD2 a day, and make up over half of Nepal’s 29 million population.
Through sustainable fish farming practices, her social enterprise invests in them, rather than providing one-off handouts. By providing farmers with access to finance, technology, infrastructure and training they are able to create their own businesses.
Her remarkable efforts are turning heads in the Nepalese government and UN, where she is serving as the UN Women’s Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment.
Now she is busy shedding light on another cause – women trafficking in Nepal. As the Global Ambassador of Women Protection Center – an organisation that fights human trafficking in South Asia, she works to prevent girl trafficking and invests in their education as a way out.
The hot-button issue affects at least 5,000 Nepalese women being trafficked into India for illegal prostitution each year.
- Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 16 and 14
Today, the popular Indonesian resort of Bali is plastic-bag free.
Thanks to sisters Melati and Isabel Wijen, who at 10 and 12 years old founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags. In 2016, the organisation successfully persuaded the Bali airport to ban plastic bags. Soon after, the whole island followed.
It seems Jakarta is supportive too, now the government aims to get rid of all plastic bags across Indonesia by 2021. That’s important, because after China, Indonesia is the second largest plastic polluter in the world. So far, the pair has worked with local governments in the country to form new policies.
Their attention has turned elsewhere too. The dynamic duo has already set up 16 teams in different countries to further their environmental initiatives.
- Lydia Ko, 21
She has been hailed the ‘most accomplished young golfer’ ever.
At 17, Lydia was ranked No. 1 in professional golfing, becoming the youngest player in history to achieve the feat. By 19, the Korean-born New Zealander had won an Olympic silver, and two major championships. A year later, she was hailed ‘more accomplished than Tiger Woods’.
Tiger himself did not win a major title until he was 21.
Now, sport pundits are betting on her to be one of golfing greats. Lydia herself aspires to be a major title winner, and if that isn’t enough – to be New Zealand’s best golfer ever.
Beyond the grass, the sports superstar is an ambassador for many causes. They include a children’s medical charity that provides emergency care for children in the Oceania region, and supporting blind and disabled golf.
Hundreds of New Zealand’s youth athletes have also benefitted from her hard-earned winnings after she channelled all her prize money to support their development.
- Neha Gupta, 21
An International Children’s Peace Prize winner at 18, Neha works to help orphans and other underprivileged children in India and the US.
To date, over 25,000 children have been supported by her charity, Empower Orphans, which she started at just nine years old.
Determined to punch above her weight, the young activist successfully petitioned for children’s rights issues to be made a priority at the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Several schools in India have her to thank too – their libraries, computer labs, drinking water and clinics were built with her charity’s funds.
Now there’s no stopping Neha as she continues to be a champion to underprivileged children. In 2015, she gave a Ted talk introducing another movement, The KidsRights Youngsters, which aims to realise children’s basic rights.
The spotlight might be on these five, but there are plenty more out there doing their part.
How about you? Tell us about something you are interested in doing, or if you are already out there making the world run better for others like yourself.