Reconstructing gender: 6 youth activists across the world
Gender equality matters. To the young, fearless and daring new generation, hungry for an equal standing. They’ve been challenging age old mindsets, fighting for a just world and articulating rather fiercely, the recognition of the gender spectrum. Here’s a handful of gender champions who are addressing pressing social concerns in different parts of the world to restructure gender perspectives; towards a humane, equitable and gender-friendly world.
1. Fernanda Gonzalez,11, Mexico
“If I have a message for children my age, it’s that when we all grow up and become adults, we will have the chance to live in equality, and the quality of our social lives will be better than it is now.” – Fernanda Gonzalez. When she was 8, Fernanda wrote “Azul o rosa?” (Blue or Pink), a book that emerged from a school project that addressed the subject of gender inequality. Two years later, it was published by the Mexican Congressional Center for Studies on the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality. Today, at age 11, she lectures at schools and universities, in rural and native communities, addresses lawmakers and was nominated for an international award. She reiterates her message across different platforms telling boys and girls that they have the same rights. She encourages them to strive for their goals, ignoring stereotypes.
2. Freddy Calderon and Damian Valencia, 18, Ecuador
These 18 year old boys started Pink Helmets, a network of young men united against traditional definitions of manhood. The question that led to them to found the Pink Helmets was “Do we really have to mistreat women to be men?” Chauvinist and violent behaviors are widespread phenomenon in Ecuador, where four out of every ten individuals under 15 years say that they have witnessed acts of aggression at home, according to a study by the Training Center for Population and Social Development (CEPAR). For the Pink Helmets, their homes are the most difficult battlefield in which to convey their message successfully. “To my mother I say that she should not be stuck in the kitchen but my family regard me as a crazy person and try to convince me that I am too young to understand life,” recounts Freddy. Young people appear to be more receptive to this message of change. “We do all we can to explain to our friends that they should respect girls and not treat them as sex objects. The task of driving our message home to young people has been easier and they have changed a lot, in fact they have changed a very great deal,” he adds.
3. Hannah Godefa,17, Ethiopia
This is the young activist called upon the United Nations to come up with a tangible plan to end the discrimination that prevents millions of girls worldwide from getting an education. The turning point for Hannah was at age 7, when she became friends with a girl her age during a visit to her grandmothers home in Axum. On her departure she realised that her friend wouldn’t be able to be in touch with her as she has no pencils or materials to do so. Hannah went on to create a resource mobilisation project called Pencil Mountain that delivered over half a million school resources to children in Ethiopia. At the age of 15, she was appointed UNICEF national ambassador to Ethiopia and has been visiting Ethiopia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa to promote equality and the benefits of girls’ education. “There are so many cultural barriers for girls [that] prevent them from receiving education and many economic factors that families have to consider when they are choosing whether to send their boys to school or whether to send their girls to school. So, all the odds are stacked against them. That is why we have to target them and support them and protect them,” says Godefa.
4. Jazz Jennings, 15, USA
“I’ve always known exactly who I am. I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body,” said Jazz, the 12 year old transgender activist who encourages teenagers “to be yourself!” Jazz is any other teen who uses social media to change the world for transgender youth. One of the most influential teens of 2014, Jazz has been living as a girl for 9 of her 15 years. Her parents say Jazz, assigned male at birth, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria (then called gender identity disorder) as early as age 3. Jennings and her mother Jeannette both stress the importance of parental acceptance at the beginning stages of their child’s gender dysphoria. If the parent does not recognize and accept their child, the result could be tragic. Jazz is one of the first transgender teens who is doing her part for transgender visibility.
5. Anoyara Khatun,18, India
Anoyara was 12 years when she was trafficked to Delhi and forced into domestic labour, a hell hole she ran away from after a year later. The transition from victim to victor was quick, that defined her work as a young activist. She went on to devote her life to protecting young girls being trafficked and fighting for the equal rights of the girl child. Backed by a batallion of children, Anoyara has managed to save at least 50 minor girls from child marriage. Her work for equality for girls has been widely recognised, the biggest honour coming from the Malala Foundation. Today, Anoyara is the leader of 80 children’s groups across 40 villages in Sandeshkhali, India and has become a role model in her village and the adjoining areas.
6. Madina Dadaeva,16, Kyrgyzstan
Madina is an 11th grader from the multi-ethnic Uch-Korgon village and works on a project to reduce forced marriages. “Currently, I am working on a project which will bring about changes in my school in terms of gendered justice. It is called ‘Stop Marriages That Are Forced by Parents’. After discussing the problem with my teacher, we came to a conclusion that about 30% of female classmates are forced into arranged marriages after graduating from our high school, losing their right to continue studies later on. But I believe that we will be able to decrease this number and this will become my own small contribution to improving society!” Madina and her peers will serve in their school years as mentors and informal counselors for conflicts at their schools and communities and will lobby for the values of a free and democratic society. They are identifying gender inequality problems, drafting action plans to improve the situation, implementing and reporting on them. They have also helped to draft the course manual “My Safe and Peaceful School”, which is now taught by teachers across the Kyrgyz Republic to reach more than 8,000 students. Madina is part of the “Promoting Gender Justice and Empowerment of Young Women” project (By the UN) working on gender equality, gender-based violence and the empowerment of girls.
Photo Credits : Unknown
Words By : Leher