The young women changing the face of the Third World

It has been a year of revolution for women. From Emma Watson’s eloquent UN speech discussing the importance of feminism, to powerful social media campaigns like “Yes All Women”, young ladies of the world have been actively pursuing change and progression in their societies.

One such girl is Malala Yousafazai, arguably one of the most famous teenagers in the world and joint winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace prize. Her remarkable story of blogging for BBC news about her life and subsequent survival of an assassination attempt by the Taliban has ensured her rise to prominence, not only in Pakistan but all around the globe. Malala’s unwavering dedication to expressing the importance of learning opportunities for young women has seen Pakistan double its spending on education and has gifted her with the chance to speak before the most powerful people in the world at the UN.

Yeonmi Park, though hailing from an entirely different culture, shares many of the traits Malala exhibits; courage, perseverance and the visceral belief that things in their home countries need to change. Park, 21, is one of the most outspoken people to have emerged from North Korea and has made it her mission to shed light on the brutal socialist regime. In a recent interview with the Irish Independent Park describes the public executions, piles of dead bodies and pervasive fear present in North Korea. She recounts almost starving when her father was imprisoned and her mother detained for illegal trading. When asked if anyone knew the then nine year old Park and her eleven year old sister were on their own, she explains that nobody cared, everyone was consumed by the fear that they would be next to die.

It has been eight years since Park escaped the country, age 13, and fled to China eventually ending up in South Korea. The young woman has experienced poverty, cruel repression, the death of her father, witnessing the rape of her mother and a life of uncertainty and fear. Today she has done interviews with various high profile publications and has spoken at the One Young World seminar in Dublin. Despite being on North Korea’s target list and having been warned that speaking out against the North Korean regime may endanger her life, she is adamant that she will be heard. “Every journey, every interview is risky,” she says. “It doesn’t matter. I’m doing this for my people.”

These emerging human rights activists are part of a generation of young women striving to change the face of society. Women’s rights is garnering more and more media attention recently and with the rise of social media there are more opportunities for young women to witness freedom and strive for a fairer society in their own countries. These women should be a stark reminder for people everywhere that while society has progressed, not all people, including women, have equality of opportunity. Park and Yousafazai have had to fight in a world that sought to repress, control and diminish them and despite adversity have succeeded and emerged as leaders of a new era.

Rebecca Lumley

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