Malala Yousafzai was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing burqas.
Malala was only 15 when the Taliban shot her in the face.
She was 17 when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Emma González was 18 when she survived the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida which killed 17 of her schoolmates and injured many more.
She has become a vocal advocate for gun control in the US, incurring the wrath of the NRA and conservative politicians and media with one Republican candidate (and NRA member) labelling her a “skinhead lesbian”.
The Greensboro Four were teenagers when they changed American history by walking up to a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., sitting down, and refusing to leave.
The momentum that began at the Woolworth’s lunch counter would eventually contribute to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public spaces.
The pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square were led by students as are the current protests in Hong Kong.
The examples of student-led movements creating real change are many – the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia which led quickly to the toppling of the Communist government, students in Johannesburg objecting to a law that mandated Afrikaans-language education set in motion a global movement against apartheid.
Scott Morrison has dismissed concerns about climate change as “needless anxiety”, told the kids to “get back to school”, and made it very clear that he will not be lectured to by a girl with “no life experience” when Australia is “doing our bit”.
Apparently, “doing our bit” means exporting enormous quantities of fossil fuels, refusing any push to stop subsidising the industry, approving rampant land-clearing, destroying river systems by extracting and diverting water, resisting fuel-efficiency standards for transport, and using accounting tricks to disguise the fact that our emissions are now higher than they were in 2000 and are on an increasing trajectory.
“Doing our bit” for a peaceful, rules-based world also apparently means becoming the second largest importer of weapons in 2018, up from fourth largest the year before.
Last year, Christopher Pyne told us that “We expect that in the next nine years because of the investments of this government we’ll move to being in the top 10 defence exporters in the world, and so we should be.”
Except Australia last year fell from the world’s 18th largest military exporter to now be ranked 25th despite all the money we are wasting on pretending that the death industry creates jobs.
To the young people of the world I say, we need you to be loud and proud.
This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better