Young UK Activists Beyond the Headlines
Last week Jaha Dukureh, an American-Gambian activist, was named one of the world’s most influential leaders by TIME magazine alongside celebrities, moguls, and world leaders like John Kerry, Angela Merkel, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Unlike the personalities she was pictured next to, Dukureh is an average young woman with an incredible story. She is a wife, mother, and a leader in the global fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM).
The recognition of Dukureh, and other women whose names you may have never heard of before highlights the fact that influence and fame are not the same thing – a fact which has been evident here in the UK for a few years. The feminist movement and those taking the lead in the UK have been young women whose impact far exceeds their fame. Here are some notable activists you may not know yet, but absolutely should:
Fahma Mohamed is a young Somali-British activist who – along with Integrate Bristol – led a Guardian-backed campaign to raise awareness in schools of female genital mutilation. As part of her drive, she invited Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to inform and educate all British teachers on the issues surrounding FGM. Within three weeks, her petition on Change.org attracted more than 230,000 signatures and massive public support, support which inspired UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to seek a meeting with her in London.
Mohamed and Integrate Bristol, a charity formed to help with the integration of young people and children, continue to campaign for an end to FGM within a generation.
June Eric-Udorie is a 17-year-old writer and feminist who took on the Sussex Police force last year. When she found out about the victim-blaming posters her local police force was using she took action.
Still in high school herself, in between lessons, she sat down and launched a petition on Change.org, asking that the posters be retracted. She contacted her local paper and the story soon gained national recognition in The Telegraph.
Within 48 hours, police forces retracted the posters and made a public apology. It was victory for Eric-Udorie and survivors sexual violence everywhere.
Kris Hallenga was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 23. Her doctor originally dismissed the tumour as “hormonal”, leading to a late diagnosis.
Driven by the difficult experience, Hallenga and her twin sister Maren devoted themselves to educating young people about the dangers of a late diagnosis for breast cancer. They launched CoppaFeel! which describes itself as being on a mission to stamp out late detection of breast cancer. Hallenga, via her charity, ensures that young people know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. They dress up as boobs and use terms such as boobs to reach young people, encouraging them know what their boobs look and feel like normally. Giving young people the confidence to seek out a doctor if they notice anything peculiar is the most powerful element of their work.
Caroline Criado-Perez, OBE
Caroline Criado-Perez, or CCP to her friends and fans, is a feminist activist and journalist. She became known through her Change.org petition to the Bank of England demanding to keep women on British banknotes.
In 2013, the Bank of England announced that Winston Churchill would be replacing Elizabeth Fry on £5 notes, leaving the paper currency woman-free. Perez started the petition on Change.org, and within a week it had attracted over 22,000 signees and blanket coverage in both print and broadcast media nationally and internationally. Due to the massive support the campaign received, the Bank of England announced that author Jane Austen would feature on the next £10 note. Come 2017, the “Pride and Prejudice” author will be the next face of the note, replacing Charles Darwin.
These young women have contributed to improving the lives of other women and girls in the UK. From raising their voices to ensure those marginalised and at risk of FGM are not ignored, to calling out some of the largest institutions. These activists have shown that with a petition or just sharing your story we all have the power to make real and lasting change.
Photo Credit: Danny Martindale/Getty Images