11 gen z activists changing the world
From world hunger to climate change – big change starts small
image Jonas McIlwain
words Louis Staples
When looking at the state of the world, it’s unsurprising that young people feel pretty furious. From wildfires caused by skyrocketing temperatures, to attacks on women’s rights, endemic racism and economic inequality, our Boomer leaders are making it increasingly difficult to “respect your elders”.
It’s easy to spend days doomscrolling, finding endless things to feel angry and upset about. (Or hide from the misery on TikTok). But you know what’s more impressive? Standing up and doing something about it, despite the huge obstacles in the way.
Across the world, there are so many inspiring young people doing incredible things. We all know about Greta Thunberg, the teen climate sensation who organised the climate strikes. But there are so many other young activists out there who believe a different world is possible.
Behold: a list of incredible Gen Z-ers who are changing the world.
1. Wanjiku Gatheru, UK
Founder, Black Girl Environmentalist 23-year-old Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru is an environmental justice advocate who is passionate about building a more inclusive environmental movement. She spearheaded the Reclaiming Our Time campaign, which is one of the largest Black youth-led environmental initiatives in years, with partners including the Sierra Club, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway.
2. Jessica Rosario, USA
Student Navigator, Swipe Out Hunger
Swipe Out Hunger is a nationwide non-profit that addresses hunger and food insecurity among college students, and has programs at more than 135 colleges. 24-year-old Jessica Rosario works with Swipe Out Hunger to connect with low-income students to share resources, provide one-on-one support to access those resources, and normalise asking for help at a time when students need it the most. Swipe Out Hunger provided 300,000 meals to students in need during the pandemic and the program has since been rolled out on 22 campuses across the US.
3. Christina Adane, UK
Most people think Marcus Rashford is solely responsible for the Tory government's 2021 U-turn on feeding disadvantaged school children during the holidays. But the footballer couldn’t have done it without Christina Adane, who started the petition on behalf of the 1.4 million children who were going hungry. She also co-chairs Bite Back 2020, an organisation that empowers young people to fight against injustices when it comes to access to food.
4. Jeremy Muchilwa and Michelle Muchilwa, Kenya
Founders, Bring Back Lake Victoria
Brother-sister founders Jeremy (14) and Michelle (17) are on a mission to stop pollution and microplastics from choking Lake Victoria, one of Africa’s great bodies of water. The lake is the economic engine for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, so siblings decided to create an app to collect data on plastic pollution threatening the lake. Their project started with an initiative focused on Lake Victoria’s long struggle with declining fish stocks and the ongoing effects of climate change.
5. Hasan Patel, UK
Hasan Patel is a political activist who became a social media sensation at just 16 years old, after speaking out against the Tories. Considering he was on a scholarship at Eton, Britain’s most expensive school, he caused quite a stir. Four years on, Patel hasn’t stopped speaking out on the issues he cares about. He is active in the Labour Party and campaigns on a wide range of issues, from the cost of living crisis, worker’s rights and economic inequality, to decolonising the school curriculum and ending institutionalised Islamophobia.
6. Tiana Day, USA
Founder, Youth Advocates For Change
19-year-old Tiana Day’s youth-led non-profit organisation focuses on amplifying youth voices and inspiring local action on social justice issues. In June 2020, as protests sprung up across the world, Day was instrumental in leading a Black Lives Matter march with roughly 50,000 attendees across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
7. Fionn Ferreira, The Netherlands
Activist and inventor
21-year-old Fionn Ferreira aims to provide access to clean, microplastic-free water and help prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the environment. Incredibly, he has invented an environmentally friendly way to remove microplastics from water using vegetable oil and magnetic powder. Now, he is building a prototype for widespread application of this process.
8. Naomi El, UK
Recognised by TikTok as a “voice for change”, 21-year-old student Naomi El is schooling the world on what it's like to be a Black woman living in the UK. Her Tiktok boasts important discussions around patriarchy, microaggressions and racism. Lately, she has been giving her followers her thoughts on everything from LGBTQ+ history to the Tory leadership contest – an eclectic mix.
9. Stella Keating, USA
Transgender Advocate, The Gendercool Project
As an advocate for trans and non-binary equality in her community and on Capitol Hill, 17-year-old Stella Keating is an advocate for GenderCool, a youth-led movement bringing positive change to the world. Keating is the first transgender teen to testify in front of the US Senate. In spring 2020, she launched a six-episode podcast series called Gimme the Mic, focused on elevating youth voices and perspectives.
10. Amika George, UK
After starting her campaign for free period products at the age of 17, Amika is a key figure in the fight against period poverty. She started not-for-profit group Free Periods back in 2017, which continues to fight for access to free period products for women who need it. She has also written a book about how to get started in activism, for other young people who want to get involved in causes they care about.
11. Emelin Flores, USA
Founder, Rutgers University Chapter of Out In Tech
25-year-old Emelin Flores helps nonprofits improve their security and LGBTQ+ students looking to break into tech. She works with local nonprofits and to help them improve the security and privacy posture of their tech ecosystems, and since graduating from Rutgers, she has connected more than 20 members of the global Out In Tech Slack community to tech internships.