'We must not let fear stop us': Young women share stories of activism

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By Lauren Chadwick
'We must not let fear stop us': Young women share stories of activism
Copyright  Photo: Antoine Tardy   -   Antoine Tardy

Six activists with diverse causes united together in an, at times emotional, youth summit at the United Nations in Geneva.

From indigenous rights to forced child marriage and sexual slavery, their causes and stories spoke of the worst humanitarian crises.

Youth is the theme of this year’s International Human Rights day; to mark the occasion, the UN hosted many people would say the focus on the next generation does not come undeservedly.

Activism has never been as “young and dynamic” as it is today, said Tatiana Valovaya the director of the UN office in Geneva. She said the young female activists present at the summit were examples for their generations.

Many young activists are inspiring a new generation to protest and speak out. Greta Thunberg notably inspired a generation of climate activists to skip school and protest the climate.

But the young women present in Geneva on Tuesday came from Iraq, Brazil, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United Kingdom.

They discussed how youth are engaging on the world’s most harrowing issues in a summit organised in part with Radio Television Suisse and media organisation Dev.tv.

“All the causes you have chosen are essential,” Valovaya told the six activists.

Euronews spoke with the young activists about why youth are standing up and why these young people are working to engage with young women in particular.

Memory Banda is fighting forced child marriage, especially after watching her little sister get married at age 11. She's helped to change the law in Malawi.

“If we do nothing now, then there is nothing for the future,” she said.

Her fellow activists agreed:

“When we inspire young people to make a difference, that’s the most inspiring thing that we do,” said 16-year-old Amy Meek, who is a co-founder of Kids Against Plastic with her younger sister.

“Every step is accompanied by an obstacle,” said Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad who has spoken out about being enslaved by the so-called Islamic State. She said she felt shame talking about rape and sexual slavery.

“I’m from a very conservative society… It used to be taboo to talk about rape,” Murad said.

But despite the struggles and suffering, the young women all stood firm:

“We must not let fear stop us,” said indigenous rights activist Hamangai Pataxo.

Rebecca Kabuo, who was once imprisoned in her home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for her protests against corruption agreed.

"It's my responsibility. For me, if I don't do this I will have done nothing," she said. "It's my responsibility to inform the population that doesn't have access to the same information."