We’ve compiled a list of some of the most inspiring activists: people who have fought or are fighting for positive change across the globe and striving for a brighter future.
We hope you feel inspired by these amazing activists to do some campaigning of your own!
1. Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was a leader of India’s independence movement. When India was a colony of Great Britain, Gandhi used non-violent methods to protest against British rule. His efforts earned him the title, Mahatma, which means ‘great soul’. In 1893, Gandhi took a job in a British colony in South Africa and saw Europeans discriminating against Indian settlers. This motivated him to get involved in politics so he could fight for Indian rights. His activism eventually led to his country’s independence. Gandhi began his non-violent protests in 1906 and when he returned to India in 1915, he became its most powerful political leader. Within his country, he supported the rights of both Hindus and Muslims and he also sought better treatment for groups that were discriminated against by others.
2. Greta Thunberg
This teenager turned a one-person protest into a world-wide climate revolution! Greta Thunberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden. She has Asperger’s Syndrome, which Greta describes as her “superpower” that helps her see the world in “black and white”. She has said that this has helped her realise that there are “no grey areas when it comes to climate change.” In March 2019, activists coordinated the first Global Strike for climate change. Leaders of the strike stated they were inspired by Greta and over 1.6 million people from 125 countries took part! You might have seen her campaigning recently at the Glasgow COP26 summit. Greta has inspired children across the world to join her campaign for a greener future!
3. Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai grew up in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan. When the Taliban took control of the area, they enforced new laws which demanded that girls could not attend school. Malala began to write a blog for the BBC describing her experiences of Taliban rule. She also started speaking out publicly against the Taliban. Unfortunately, she received various death threats and an attempted assassination was carried out on her in 2012. Luckily, Malala survived and woke up in an English hospital a week later.
The attempt on her life didn’t stop Malala, she has continued to speak out against the oppression in her country and gender inequality. She has delivered speeches at the United Nations and continues to campaign for education rights. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
4. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 and is known for tirelessly campaigning for the rights of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He grew up in a time when the southern United States enforced the Jim Crow Laws, which meant black and white people were segregated, with black communities suffering consistent racial discrimination as a result.
Martin Luther King Jr’s first major role in the Civil Rights Movement came in 1955, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. Martin helped organise boycotts of the city’s buses and after 381 days of protest, it was ruled that segregation laws should no longer be recognised. Inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. employed non-violent tactics to his protests, despite activists being met with violence from the police. His famous “I have a dream…” speech in Washington D.C was heard by over 250,000 people and has since become one of the most famous speeches in history. It focuses on Dr King Jr’s dream of a society where black people and white people live together in harmony.
5. Helen Keller
Helen Keller was an American writer and speaker, she was born in Alabama in 1880. When she was 19 months old she became sick and lost her eyesight and hearing. Thanks to the effort of teacher Anne Sullivan, Keller learnt to read and write and became the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor degree from university! After her studies, she released an autobiography, wrote articles for newspapers and gave speeches at prestigious conferences. She traveled the world and met all sorts of leading figures, from Winston Churchill to Mark Twain. Keller wrote because she wanted to help spread awareness of disability at a time when discrimination against disabled people was common. Helen Keller’s activism contributed to the increased recognition of the rights of disabled people around the world.
6. Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester in 1858 and is known for spearheading the Suffragette movement (whose aim was to give women the right to vote). After the campaign for women’s rights had been running unsuccessfully for years, Pankhurst decided she’d had enough! She organised and led a series of uncompromising protests against the patriarchy. “Deeds not words” was the motto of the Suffragettes, and they meant business. Vandalism and arson became employed tactics, which resulted in the imprisonment of many Suffragettes, Pankhurst included.
When WWI broke out, Pankhurst called for her supporters to cease protesting and encouraged women to help keep the country going. When the war ended, calls for women’s votes were finally answered and in 1918, a selection of women over 30 were given the vote. 10 years later, men and women were given equal voting rights. Bittersweetly, the laws were passed just weeks after Emmeline Pankhurst died.
Who are you inspired by? Is there a cause that you are passionate about? Maybe you want to protect endangered species, save our oceans or promote a fairer world for your fellow citizens?
Whatever you feel strongly about, we hope you are inspired by these stories to see that your voice and your actions can make a big difference!