While I was standing in the Domain at the Climate Strike last week, surrounded by a sea of over 100,000 people, it struck me more than once that there were teenage girls everywhere I looked.
Leading the strike from the stage, starting chants in the streets, and putting finishing touches on posters as they marched up and down the city streets- girls were front and centre of the movement.
And it’s not just locally this is happening.
Dana Fisher is a sociologist at the University of Maryland and has been studying environmental activism for decades. Recently she surveyed more than 100 US climate strike organisers as well as almost 200 Washington protesters, finding that 68 percent of organisers and 58 percent of participants were girls or women.
People of colour also made up more than a third of Washington strikers, a figure that nearly matches US racial demographics. A recent poll of US teenagers conducted by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found that 46 percent of girls felt climate change was “extremely important” to them, compared with only 23 percent of boys.
All over the world, teenage girls are speaking up and demanding change.
From 16 year-old Isra Hirsi, the Executive Director of America’s Youth Climate Strike, to Autumn Peltier, the Indigenous teen from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island in Canada, nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize for the last three years.
In Australia, there’s also much to proud of, with our own tribe of passionate teen activists. Below we share more on how these climate warriors are paving a new way forward.
Marlie is a 16 year old Kamilaroi high school student, who’s been involved in environmental activism for three years, protesting against coal mines at Maules Creek, an hour’s drive from her home in Gunnedah.
She spoke to a crowd at the Sydney climate strike on Friday, where she proclaimed “I don’t need the authority of the New South Wales Education Department. I am here on the authority of my elders.”
Marlie’s been involved in the water crisis in north western New South Wales, helping her local Aboriginal Land Council to deliver bottled water to her family in Walgett, the only drinking water they can rely on.
She put it best in a piece she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald when she said: “We fight, not only for the future of young people but to respect our elders. We are responsible to be part of the solutions to the issues surrounding climate change, and we want to be involved. Climate movements must put Indigenous people at the centre because this isn’t just about the future, but also the present and the past. It’s about justice for us.”
Harriet is one of the founding members of the school strikes in Australia, striking before the movement had even found its footing in Australia.
She and her friends were in Year 8 when they read about Greta Thunberg striking outside of parliament by herself, and decided to follow in her footsteps. They took a group of classmates up to Bendigo to protest outside their local member’s offices, and soon after decided to hold a rally on November 30. Less than one year and three climate strikes later, Harriet was invited to New York, where she’s currently attending the first United Nations Youth Climate Summit, the same one Greta travelled across the world on a zero emissions yacht for.
17 year old Vasha Yajam is part of the core leadership team of the climate strike both nationally and in Sydney. She’s spoken passionately about climate activism on the Today Show, the Drum, and was part of the student panel on the ABC’s Q&A earlier in the year. The Year 12 student is also a passionate feminist and mental health advocate.
Daisy is a lead organiser for the school climate strike. At 17, she went from wrangling 80 students from her school to attend the first climate strike, to being one of the main organisers in one of the largest protests in Australia’s history.
Relentlessly optimistic through balancing her schoolwork and being one of the faces of the Australian climate movement, she told Vogue “I see the good in people. I see the good in our prime minister and in Gladys Berejiklian, here in New South Wales. I hope that they will do right by the people.”
Daisy is also a fierce champion for gender equality, having started the believe_survivors Instagram account, where she and her friends share stories from those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment.
Like Daisy, Jean is one of the strike’s lead organisers, speaking alongside her friend in matching Haus of Dizzy “Stop Adani” earrings on both the second and third climate strikes.
She got involved with activism in 2017, when she volunteered through GetUp to work on the phone banks as part of the ‘Yes’ campaign.
Jean put her hand up to organise the Sydney strike back in November, when the first wave of global climate strikes were happening.
Since then, she’s given a TED Talk in Sydney, campaigned for legislative action against fossil fuels, and become the media spokesperson for young people on climate change.