Across the world girls are speaking up and making their mark on the issues they are most passionate about. There is no more better example of girls’ empowerment than the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai. A Pakistani activist for female education, she seized worldwide attention and admiration after the Taliban targeted Malala and shot her on her way to school. Since then, Malala has become one of the most prominent voices for girls education in Pakistan and across the world and a inspiring model.
On her 16th birthday, the United Nations declared July 12th “Malala Day,” for her work in shining a light on the world’s most vulnerable girls. In Honor of Malala day, we have created a list of five Latin American girls leading the way in their causes at home and abroad.
Here they are:
Sophie Cruz has become one of the immigration reform movements’ youngest voices. The daughter of two undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, Cruz is the six-year-old immigration activist that caught national attention in 2015, when she passed through a barricade and hand delivered a letter, urging Pope Francis to speak out for undocumented workers and a shirt reading “Papa Rescate DAPA” —”Pope Rescue DAPA,” the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program created during the Obama that allows undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. since 2010 to apply for permission to work and permission to stay in the U.S. for three years. As a result of her public acts, in May 2016, President Barack Obama invited Cruz to the White house for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and during this year’s Women’s March in D.C. she stood with her family and urged people to continue fighting for immigration reform.
Isabella Springmuhl Tejada is the 20-year-old Guatemalan fashion designer behind Down to Xjabelle and focuses on clothing for indigenous women. But that alone isn’t what makes her special: Isabella has Down’s syndrome. She was the first designer with Down’s syndrome to take part in London Fashion Week. After being rejected by two fashion schools in Guatemala because she has Down’s syndrome, Isabella learned how to sew, and created the colorful embroidered jackets and ponchos that made her famous. Her designers are women by Mayan indigenous women who live in the rural areas of Guatemala. Isabella admits her passion for designing arose from struggling to find clothing that fit her body type, saying “we have a different body constitution; we are shorter, wider or very thin.” Now she designs clothing that fits people with Down’s syndrome, and was on the BBC’s 2016 list of 100 inspirational women.
Eighteen year old Lilia Lobato Martinez is the first Mexican to win the international girls-only Technovation competition. The competition offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn and apply skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology. In order to win, candidates need to create an app and a business plan to promote the app. The electrical engineering student built the mobile app Ool that promotes volunteerism and links citizens with NGO’s in Mexico. She is now using the $10,000 prize to further develop the network that has already linked 1,000 volunteers with 20 non-profit groups.
Around the world, STEM fields are often male dominated. Lilia is breaking down the barriers and plans to eventually set up a center to teach children to code.
Fifteen year old Yadis Xiomara Chocó Mina is a part of two municipal participation forums in Buenos Aires, Colombia: la Mesa de Participación de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes (The Coalition for the Participation Girls, Boys, and Adolescents) and the president of her municipality’s Juvenile Platform, a forum that provides an open space for teens to participate in the decisionmaking process of economic, social, political, and cultural development. In 2016, as an ambassador for the NGO Plan International, Yadis flew to Madrid and was mayor for a day on the international day of the girl.
Working with Plan International Colombia, Yadis participated in the Usa tu poder para Construir Paz (Use Your Power to Build Peace) project where she is a youth leader and a mentor to young girls in her community and municipality to defend girls’ rights. Yadis has worked in other Plan international projects like Protejamos Mi Mundo, on issues of protection, participation and disaster risk management, with a gender perspective.
Yadis hopes to study human rights and specialize in political rights so that one day she can be the Education Minister of Colombia.
In Nicaragua, 16-year-old Brisa is a counselor to adolescents and teens who have suffered violence, and works with the Nicaraguan Education Ministry on a number of activities in school centers. Besides her work with the Education Ministry, Brisa hosts a radio program Zona 90, where she promotes debate over various social issues like pregnancy prevention, interfamily violence, and sexual health.
She has partnered with Plan International, a development and humanitarian organization that focuses on children’s rights and equality for girls, for their Girl Power project in Nicaragua. Under the project she is responsible for monitoring sexual violence crimes, rights and duties of children, sexual health, domestic and intra-family violence and educating communities about the dangers of violence.
Though only 16, Brisa plans on becoming a journalist as a way to empower women across the world and fight for girl empowerment.