Monday, March 8, 2021 marks the annual International Women’s Day, a global holiday that celebrates women’s achievements, fights for gender equality, and fundraises for women’s organizations. In honor of the holiday this year, we’ve rounded up 10 young women climate activists changing the world.
Each year, International Women’s Day has two official themes — the official IWD 2021 theme is “Choose to Challenge.” According to the website, “from challenge comes change,” and this year, the organizers are encouraging people to challenge and call out gender discrimination, bias, and inequality.
The United Nations set the occasion's other 2021 theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The UN wants the holiday to celebrate women from across the planet who are working on “a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Without further ado, here are 10 young women climate activists from the next generation who are, without a doubt, making the world a better place.
Devishi Jha, 18, is Director of Partnerships at Zero Hour, serves on UNICEF USA’s National Council, and is the CEO of Voyagers, a youth-led platform and community that works with private businesses to help make them more sustainable. Through Voyagers, Jha has advised companies including Netflix, Unilever, and IKEA.
“I make it a priority to ensure that my voice, alongside the voices of thousands of other women, is given a seat at the table to fight for the climate. That's the first step to achieving a livable future for all,” Jha tells Green Matters via email.
Alexandria Villaseñor is a 15-year-old climate activist who made headlines for striking for the climate outside the UN headquarters in NYC every Friday, inspired by Greta Thunberg. Alexandria is also a co-founder and Youth Staff Coordinator for Earth Uprising, a network of young people from all over the world fighting for a clean planet.
Wathuti’s climate activism has received acclaim all over the world, including from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Additionally, the Africa Youth Awards named Wathuti one of 2019’s 100 most influential young Africans, and the Eleven Twelve Foundation gave her the the Africa Green Person of the Year Award in 2019.
Any list of young women climate activists chaning the world would be incomplete without Greta Thunberg. The 18-year-old climate activist first caught international attention in 2018 when she staged a climate strike — and her strike quickly turned into an international climate movement called Fridays for Future, with protests staged all over the world.
As the de facto leader of the youth climate movement, Thunberg has undoubtedly inspired everyone on this list, as well as hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
Destiny Hodges, a junior at Howard University, founded the organization Generation Green, through which she is fighting for environmental liberation. As she told Green Matters in a recent interview, environmental liberation is the idea that “environmental justice, climate justice, and Black liberation can only be achieved together, and that Black liberation is liberation for everyone.”
Lily Gardner manages Middle and High School Support for Sunrise Movement, one of the biggest youth movements fighting the climate crisis. In 2019, Lily helped lead a group of Kentucky students in confronting Sen. Mitch McConnell about the Green New Deal, according to InStyle, and she continues to fight for climate legislation with Sunrise.
“I’ve never been more confident that our state, and our nation, can fulfill our promise to posterity and tackle the greatest threat to my generation,” she told InStyle in 2019.
Popular Uganda-based climate activist Vanessa Nakate uses her voice — and impressive social media platform — to stand up for people disproportionately affected by the climate movement and racism within the movement. She also founded the Rise Up Movement, an initiative to “amplify the voices of different climate activists across Africa, and … to create opportunities for them on the world’s stage so they can influence decisions of world leaders,” Nakate told Green Matters in an interview.
Autumn Peltier, 16, is from Wikwemikong First Nation/Manitoulin Island in Canada, and has Ojibway/Odawa heritage, according to the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Autumn has spent years fighting for clean water in Canada, and she currently serves as the Chief Water Commissioner for Anishinabek Nation.
Peltier is a three-time nominee for the International Children’s Peace Prize, and she is also the subject of the documentary short The Water Walker, which premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. The film documents Peltier's journey to the UN’s NYC headquarters to advocate for Indigenous communities.
Jamie Margolin is a Jewish and Columbian-American climate justice activist, current NYU film student, and co-founder of Zero Hour, an intersectional youth climate organization. The 19-year-old is also a published author, and her book Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It has a foreword by Greta Thunberg.
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer, 24, is one of the lead organizers for Germany’s Fridays for Future chapter. She made international headlines in August 2020 when she, Greta Thunberg, and Belgian climate activists Anuna de Wever and Adélaïde Charlier met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss climate protection.
Neubauer also hosts a German-language climate podcast called 1,5 Grad, which translates to 1.5 Degrees. The title is a reference to the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping this century’s temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid a climate catastrophe.