By Europe and Me‘s Caitlin Ackerman
“If not you, then who? If not now, then when? We need more women to speak up and make their voices heard. Young women have valuable experiences and perspectives. We need you in this fight.”
– Elizabeth Warren from A Girl’s Guide to Joining the Resistance.
In the era of Trump, Salvini, and Macron, unease and discomfort may be common feelings amongst the public. We observe money being invested in walls rather than inclusive policy; fear the war between white nationalism and extremism; fight to prove climate change is more than a myth; and seek to reallocate wealth between top 1 percent and the rest of the world. Daily, we are bombarded with headlines of mass shootings, ocean pollution, and human rights violations; and it can be extremely difficult to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. But, the light is there, shining brightly and it’s calling activists, big and small, to help get us there.
Where do we start? Is sustainable change possible? Will humans ever truly be equal? While the answers may seem far to reach, there are global leaders right now inspiring us to follow their footsteps and unite for a better world. These leaders are powerful, influential, and female. Female role models around the world are advocating for justice and driving change by unifying communities and organising demonstrations, not only to make their voices heard, but to lift up the voices of those who go ignored and forgotten. In Europe and across the globe women are revolutionising leadership and empowering those around them.
Thanks to the #Metoo Movement and the Western women’s revolution of recent years, there has been a collective awakening and revitalised interest in women’s issues and social injustices. Increasingly we can observe women in power leading their countries such as Dali Grybauskaite (president of Lithuania), Erna Solberg (Prime Minister of Norway), Marie-Louise Colerio Preca (president of Malta) and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (president of Croatia), recently elected Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas and let’s not forget Angela Merkel and Theresa May. Noting that France has the highest number of female representatives in government ministries, women in Europe are making themselves known. And this is just in Europe. While plenty of countries lag behind these trends, it is Millennial and Generation Z youth who are strident in continuing this trend of female empowerment.
Inspiration knows no borders
At only 16-years old Thunberg is steering the international movement to fight climate change. She is leading this fight primarily by modeling what she wants to see changed. For example, Thunberg is consciously reducing her carbon footprint by adopting a vegan lifestyle and vowing to not fly. Furthermore, she repeatedly puts her education on the bench to advocate for those deeply affected by climate change. In August 2018, the Fridays for Future movement launched as Thunberg walked out of school to strike for climate change in front of the Swedish Parliament. Fridays for Future gained heavy headway when students in countries like Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia, and Japan also began to strike – and these are just some out of many. Thunberg’s activism and strength in the fight against climate change has swept the globe with students now organizing strikes on every continent. As of March 15, 2019, over 2,000 events have been planned across 123 countries. While her activism has widely caught the attention and action of youth globally, she has also impacted many adults via her speaking on TEDxStockholm, her addressing of the attendees of the Conference on Climate Change at the United Nations, and confronting the world’s most powerful people at the Davos Economic Forum on her campaign against carbon emissions.
The teen shared with the New Yorker, that in undertaking her school strike, she was inspired by the protest staged by American high-school students in response to the Parkland shooting in February 2018. This is another example of how activism can create more activism and this domino-like effect can continue to knock down the barriers that challenge justice. Parkland High School students in Florida fighting for gun law changes, inspire youth in Sweden to use her platform to fight for climate change. This one young woman goes on to empower other youth and adults to take a stance and fight for what they believe in.
Synergies across the pond
The feminine revolution of the 21st century is deeply rooted, withstanding the strong winds attempting to bring it down. Women are rising from the unknown and their missions are treading around the seas. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest congresswoman to take office in the history of the House of Representatives in the United States. Advocating on a progressive platform including Medicare For All, a federal jobs guarantee, a proposed Green New Deal, free education, and a hard stance against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the young leader is making big waves. Ocasio-Cortez, a woman of Latino descent and from a working-class family, is taking a stance against the increasing inequality and emergence of Trumpian authoritarianism.
The freshman political activist uses her platform not only to fight at the highest level, but to connected with her followers communally and in the grassroots. She originates from a diverse community composed of those of Latino, African, South Asian, and ethic European descent; and utilises her digital platform to give voice to her followers. One of her biggest strengths is known as her social media presence on Instagram, where she tries to bring her followers into the political process, empowering them to believe they too, can be in her shoes one day. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not only is attempting to change American politics from the inside, she seeks to instill and spread European values throughout the US and world, promoting respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and rule or law.
They are paving the way for younger generations around the world to be not only be inspired for change but to fight alongside of them. We need young people, specifically girls and women, to use their voice, their platform, and their power to join the resistance against injustice and inequality. Female role models are unique, passionate, and different. Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are two of the many strong and influential women generating global waves of action and there is an open invite to join them!
This article was originally published in Europe & Me (E&M), with which A Tribe Of Women (ATOW) collaborates.
Caitlin Ackerman is originally from the United States but has spent the past two years studying and working abroad. She is in the final semester of her dual master’s degree program in New York. During her time studying international development and business administration, she stayed in Cameroon, Thailand, Italy, and Belgium. She honed her political thinking skills during a semester interning as a migration policy assistant in Brussels. Caitlin is passionate intercultural communication, achieving the sustainable development goals, and the value of education.