Zuriel Oduwole 20
A filmmaker and girls education advocate, Zuriel Oduwole strives to show the world what an educated girl can do. Oduwole’s documentary films have been shown on The History Channel, and her newest film was released in 5 countries. In addition to films focusing on African issue, Oduwole has interviewed 14 government leaders on climate change.
Her “Dream Up. Speak Up. Stand up” campaign seeks to give every child in the world a chance at education by encouraging girls to stay in school and fight for their rights and educating parents on the importance of education.
“I spoke to students in some schools in Lagos about the need for the girls to dream big and speak loudly on important issues. I also wanted them to know that the girl child can do the same as the boy child, if she is given the opportunity to try. Girls are just as creative as boys.”
Marley Dias 18
At age 11, Marley Dias launched the campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks with the goal of collecting and donating 1000 books featuring black girls as main characters. By the age of 12, she has collected over 9,000 books and earned a book deal. In July of 2019, Dias’ efforts resulted in free book vending machines being placed in the boroughs of New York City.
In January of 2019, Dias’ book Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You was published. It features advice for young people on how to organize campaigns of their own.
“I put out the truth and everyday experiences of myself so that people can see me as their equal, not as just a little kid or as a public figure.”
Naomi Wadler 16
One of the youngest speakers at the March For Our Lives rally in 2018, Naomi Wadler gave a compelling speech urging the nation to remember the Black women and citizens disproportionately affected by gun violence. Wadler and a friend organized a walkout at their school prior to the March, leading a group of students in a haunting display outside the school.
“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news.”
Sophie Cruz 13
The youngest influential woman on the list, a 5-year-old Sophie Cruz made headlines by reaching out to the Pope in the hopes of saving her immigrant parents in 2015. Though Cruz is an American citizen, her parents are undocumented immigrants. Cruz went on to give a speech at the Women’s March in English and Spanish, asking that families be allowed to remain together. She went on to receive the Define American award for Activist of the Year in 2017.
“I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love … Let’s keep together and fight for the rights.”
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny 15
Also known as “Little Miss Flint,” Mari Copeny made her mark by fighting for Flint, Michigan, a city that has been without clean water since 2014. A letter sent by Copeny gained Obama’s attention, as well as the public’s. Copeny went on the create the non-profit Pack Your Back, which has fundraised over $500,000 and impacted over 25,000 children.
“Flint has taught me that we need to listen to and believe in science and to always question, even the things we take for granted the most.”