Young activists: The Generation Zs making a difference

Lauren Sharkey is a fashion and women's journalist and author of Resisters: 52 Young Women Making Herstory Right Now.

Lauren Sharkey

When you hear the word ‘activist’, what do you imagine?

Suffragettes chaining themselves to railings? Placards and loud protests? Campaigners making a speech in front of thousands?

Those used to be my immediate thoughts. But after speaking to more than 50 young female activists across the globe for Resisters, my perspective has shifted dramatically.

Young activists

Now, I picture Lilly Platt striking from school alone every Friday in aid of the climate.

I think of Katie Sones and Mikaila Ulmer who started their own companies to raise money for social causes.

I remember how Ellen Jones, Sage Grace Dolan-Sandrino and Lily Madigan are amplifying LGBTQ+ rights by being unapologetically themselves.

In fact, it was almost impossible to categorise the campaigners. From ending gun violence and child marriage to advocating for refugees and people with disabilities and inventing devices that could quite literally save the planet, their causes spanned continents and generations.

Wanting to make a difference

Being pretty reserved and most definitely not the loudest person in the room, I didn’t think I could ever be an activist. But the urge to make a difference doesn’t discriminate.

Read more: How do I decide what to do with my life?

There’s room for everyone: all identities, all personalities, all interests, all people.

For me, activism definitely isn’t about being the face of a cause (though there’s nothing wrong with that).

I prefer to remain in the background, highlighting the work of others and supporting them whenever and wherever I can.

So whether that means writing about someone’s petition in my journalistic work, sharing someone’s achievements via my Resisters Instagram account, or lending a hand to individuals and organisations behind the scenes, I’m still doing my part. (Ironically, I now do a little public speaking, but it’s still with the aim of raising awareness of the brilliant young people that need support).

How you can get involved

There are plenty of ways you can get involved too.

Care about the environment? The #FridaysForFuture movement and Extinction Rebellion community are always looking for new faces.

Want to end period poverty in your local community? Volunteer for Bloody Good Period or The Red Box Project.

Whether you want to start your own organisation or join a pre-existing cause, you will be welcomed with open arms.

Noticed a law that needs updating? Petition Parliament and use your social media savviness to share it far and wide.

No matter how old you are, where you come from or what you’re fighting for, you do have the power to make the world a better place.

That may sound idealistic, but it’s true. Just ask the likes of Amika George and Greta Thunberg; two young women who have succeeded in making governments listen to their pleas.

Together, we can turn the fantasies of equality, freedom and ethics into realities. All we have to do is try.

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