In Their Own Words: 10 Young Women Lead the Way

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person (so far) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Many people know Malala’s story: she was shot by the Taliban after speaking out that girls in Pakistan should have access to education. Her story of survival and her continued work as an education activist earned her that Nobel in 2014.

Her words and actions have been an inspiration to girls and young women everywhere. “We need to encourage girls that their voice matters. I think there are hundreds and thousands of Malalas out there,” she told Time magazine. We couldn’t agree more.

In this spirit, we are spotlighting girls and young women who are emerging leaders in a range of ways. We asked leaders in our networks why they lead and the ways they are leading in their family or community. Here are their responses in their own words.

“I lead by inspiring others to be themselves. The greatest trait that a leader can have is the ability to ignite the passion that motivates people to make a change. Influencing other Black women to create is my motive. When we support one another and work as a collective, we generate a power that undoubtedly impacts the world.”

Maya M., 23 years old, California

“I lead by creating a platform for other Filipino musicians to express their artistry and in doing so, become their advocate in the greater performing community. I am a Filipino-American opera singer, a non-profit arts administrator, and a scholar. I lead because it is time music education recognizes Filipino traditional and classical music as more than just an ethnic study.
The more I discover my rich heritage and history, the more I realize the need to share my culture with others through performance and academia. I lead because I want to be the role model for aspiring Filipino-American classical musicians that I wish I saw in my youth.

Danika F., 28 years old, New York

“I lead because leadership is a quality and a strength which can change the whole world. We can build such a world, the strength of which encourages the people to win the world with their positive thoughts.”

Anjali, 20 years old, New Delhi

“I lead because there are girls out there who used to be like me, who have not learned how much power they hold within themselves that has always been inside of them — they just need to learn how to express it and use it for the power of good. I am an aspiring young woman looking at ways I can help people throughout the world through the power of research.”

Niki S., 14 years old, California

“I lead because my 6th grade english teacher taught me what it means to be an independent thinker, and I strive each day to make my somewhat overly idealistic twelve-year-old self proud. Years later, as a high school senior, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspirational women as an intern for the UN Women for Peace Association.
I have found a true sense of belonging in this community of individuals who are as committed as I am to addressing women globally with the goals of political stability and peaceful governance. This internship has opened my eyes to how collaboration, and a shared hope for our collective future, has the potential to actualize what some may consider an unrealistic goal achieving gender parity on a global scale.”

Grace C., 18 years old, New York

“I lead because I would like to share my knowledge and experiences with the people which are new to them. I like to teach those who always say that they cannot learn it. I want to make them aware that there is nothing impossible in this world.”

Sneha, 18 years old, New Delhi

“I lead because I am passionate about social justice, human rights, and advocacy. I lead because I want to encourage more diversity when it comes to leadership roles – more women, people of color, Indigienous peoples, those in the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone deserves a seat at the table, and everyone has a valuable perspective. I lead because I want to work side by side with community members and organizations and make partnerships to do transformative work.
I want to see change, and be a part of that change.

Marina F., 22 years old, New Jersey

“I lead by using my platforms as a public health journalist and human rights advocate to uplift the stories and narratives of those underrepresented in mainstream media. With each story, I have the opportunity to interact with and learn about different issues that affect women and children in my community, like poverty, unemployment, food scarcity, housing insecurity, anti-immigrant policies, LGBTQ+ discrimination, domestic violence, human trafficking, and more. Through the mediums of print and photojournalism, I can put a face to these issues and help my readers see the humanity within human rights so that they are more knowledgeable and more empowered to respond to these crises. Because if ignorance and apathy are what stand in the way of a more equitable and just society, then awareness and action are our superpowers.”

Isabella G., 26 years old, Maryland

“I lead because I know that leadership is a quality, as well as a responsibility. It is not a license to rule others. Leadership helps me to be with the people. It helps me to understand their good as well as bad qualities. Such a person will have the skill of winning the world. A good leader will never hurt the feelings of others.”

Kiran, 21 years old, New Delhi

“I lead because I envision a world where race, gender identity, and disability are celebrated, rather than tolerated. I lead because I hold a responsibility for generations to come — that when they arrive, they will find this land an equitable one. I lead by listening to the echoes inside my heart that urge me to bridge gaps for underrepresented artists and storytellers. I lead because I once was invisible, but the voice I excavated along the way now serves as a lit torch for communities forgotten.”

Rimsha A., 27 years old, North Carolina