These young women are not standing still. We speak to three Plan International Youth Activists who, motivated in-part by their own experiences, would like to create change in their world. In these conversations, Ope, Shamsiya and Evie share the personal challenges and issues of identity they’ve worked hard to overcome.
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Ope Olubodun, 21.
I’m so lucky to be surrounded by people who are working to enact positive change in the world in so many different ways. It’s amazing to see my peers coming together to tackle things so much bigger than themselves, I’m so inspired by them and it really gives me hope.
Ope, can you tell us about a personal hurdle? My mental health has been a bit of a rollercoaster the past couple of years, I would call it a constant work in progress.
What protests or events have you participated in? The Invasion Day Rally is the biggest protest I’ve attended so far; the energy I received from it was incredible. For me it’s about making sure that I walk the walk and talk the talk.
Right now, I’m super passionate about ethical and sustainable fashion; fashion has so much social power!
Ope wears Coat, Obus, $549; Turtleneck, Leonard St., $95; Pants, Leonard St., $195; Boots, Duckfeet, $400
When I feel overwhelmed or defeated, I try to step back and figure out exactly why. Knowing what’s making me feel that way helps me to acknowledge and validate those feelings, and then move on from them.
What can be done to create change? Pinpoint what you’re concerned about, research the issue, challenge your ideas: creating change within yourself is number one. Start small – talk to the people around you and see how your convictions shore up before tackling bigger fish.
How to connect with other passionate individuals? The internet has something for everyone – Facebook groups, Instagram pages and more. In-person connections are more long-lasting; meetups, protests, volunteering: those are the places to find like-minded people.
I’m really into K-pop and can be found watching obscure fan compilations on YouTube. I also read way too much fan-fiction, particularly for shows that I haven’t even seen!
Evie Haultain, 16.
I’ve struggled with being confident in myself and in my own skin ever since I can remember. Lack of confidence is something that affects us all, but I like to think that recently I’ve grown and learned to embrace myself.
What protests or events have you participated in? Like many students all around the world, I recently participated in the School Strike for Climate rallies. Climate change is the paramount issue of our times, and will affect us in every facet of our lives. Student and youth representation in political issues is something that is undermined, so I love to support student-led movements.
Right now Greta Thunberg is a real inspiration to me, as a young person who stands strongly for political issues and as an example of the power of our voice as youth.
What are you most passionate about, right now? The continued fight for girls’ and women’s equality in all forms, and the need for ongoing awareness of the importance of women’s issues in society. The anti-abortion laws in Alabama and startling statistics on how men view rape and sexual assault in Australia have reinforced the need for continued action and activism. We will never get where we want to be without constancy.
As someone extremely prone to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, I’ve found that taking a second to think about the bigger picture and the positives of the situation can really help. As cheesy as it sounds!
What can be done to create change? Talk to others! You’ll be surprised at the amount of people who may be just as concerned about something as you are. Others may know ways you can contribute your time toward creating change.
How to connect with other passionate individuals? Online, through meetings and protests, or groups like the Plan International Youth Activist Series. There is more opportunity than ever to connect with other like-minded individuals and working together is crucial in order to create real change.
I love to read! I watch films, see plays and performances. I love talking with people, discussing and debating with others. I love learning about the world.
Shamsiya Hussainpoor, 22.
… it could have been me and my family living in the horrendous living conditions on Manus and Nauru. Refugees like me have the basic human right to find protection and security. People who flee their country and home are risking their lives so their kids can have a bright future.
Can you tell us about a personal hurdle? My identity as a Muslim woman has been a challenge. Every time there was some sort of terror attack by a (so-called) Muslim I’d hide myself in my own home. I didn’t just hate the terrorist who used my identity to preach their hate but I’d hate myself, and my identity. This severely impacted my overall health.
But as I grew and matured, I began to see the real problem; I stopped blaming myself and started blaming the individual who was responsible for that crime. Nonetheless, I still have my days where I feel anxiety and pressure from the public, but I can say with confidence that it’s not as bad as it used to be.
What protests or events have you participated in? One of the most important protests for me personally was Walk for Justice for Refugees. This was a protest to end Australia’s dehumanising and unjust treatment of refugees. As a refugee myself, it was extremely important to me.
What are you most passionate about, right now? Making the world a more peaceful place to live in. I come from a country that’s known for never-ending war and bloodshed. For the first 10 years of my life I lived in my birth country, Afghanistan, and witnessed much injustice and cruelty.
I’m now in [Australia] this beautiful and peaceful country that I call ‘home’. But there are millions of young boys and girls who are still struggling with poverty, war and hunger. And I hope one day I live long enough to see not only Afghanistan but the whole world in peace.
Shamsiya wears Turtleneck, Leonard St., $90; Skirt, Leonard St., $165
Who is someone that really inspires you? My mother is an incredible, strong and forbearing woman. She’s the main reason that I’m privileged to be where I am now. She inspires me to love and to strive for education, and above all, she taught us kindness. She has been through so much. As a woman growing up in a small village in rural Afghanistan she experienced endless injustice and brutality, and yet she endured. She’s simply a wonder woman like no other!
If I’m feeling overwhelmed or defeated, I usually escape the world with music and a long nap. Another thing that really makes me feel good is helping others in any way that I can. When I help others, I not only feel good about myself, but my feelings of being ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘defeated’ seem so insignificant.
What can be done to create change? I believe most problems can be solved if we have the right audience. Social media is a very powerful tool. That’s why I started my non-profit charity in 2016: Be the Voice for the Voiceless, using social media to mobilise support from my friends and family, as well as the community.
I now raise funds for young girls in Afghanistan to continue their education, and hopefully prevent child marriages.
How to connect with other passionate individuals? Organisations like Plan International are great for individuals to come together and create change. I also turn to my friends and family – I wouldn’t have succeeded with my charity if it wasn’t for their support. The closest people you have understand your aspirations, and therefore will support and encourage you.
I do a lot of things for me. I like taking naps with my cat! I love to drink green tea, and eat dried fruit while streaming movies. I love cooking, but only when I want to. If someone pressures me to cook, it’s not the same! I also love reading inspirational books, often about survival.
We’re grateful to The Galerie Fitzroy, dealers of original vintage posters, for allowing us to shoot in their inspiring HQ!