21 Under 21 2017
“Girls are not just tomorrow’s leaders — they are speaking out, standing up, and fighting back today. From science to sports, all of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 honorees are solving some of our most pressing problems and encouraging others to join them.
I am inspired by their stories: Saanya Bhargava used her STEM skills and innovative ideas to reduce plastic waste in our oceans. Nadya Okamoto founded a nonprofit organization that provides menstrual products to homeless women and ran for office in her local government. Yusra Mardini, an Olympic swimmer from Syria, works to bring attention to the global refugee crisis. Aspiring astronaut Taylor Richardson helps other girls believe they can achieve their dreams.
These honorees prove that our generation is full of leaders, creators, and self-starters. They make the world around them — giant corporations, presidents, prime ministers, sports fans, art lovers, classmates, and people they’ve never even met — take notice and, hopefully, take action. Girls and women are doing amazing things. But we still have so much more to show the world — and many more fights to win.
Approximately 130 million girls are out of school today because of poverty, war, child marriage, or gender-based discrimination. From Pakistan to Mexico, girls are fighting for education and equality. What else could they give the world if they didn’t have to work so hard just to defend a right they already have? If one girl with an education can change the world, imagine what 130 million could do.
Seventy-six percent of men participate in the global labor market, but only 46 percent of women are employed. Around the world, I’ve met girls who want to cure cancer, run a business, or write books. I keep fighting because I want to see the future these young women can create. You are building that future, too. If you see a problem in your community, start solving it. If you have a dream, work hard to achieve it. Know that when you stand up, your sisterhood around the world stands with you.
If the women and femmes in this issue had not believed in themselves, if they’d thought they were too young to pursue their big ideas, they would not be in the magazine you’re holding right now. I know you’ll join me in celebrating their accomplishments — and I hope next year we will be reading your story.” — Malala Yousafzai
Hunter Schafer, 18
While Hunter Schafer’s modeling credentials are undeniably impressive — she recently walked runways for Versus Versace, Helmut Lang, and R13 Denim and has been featured in Japanese Vogue and i-D — she is so much more than just a member of fashion’s cool new guard. “When the discriminatory HB2 bathroom bill was passed in North Carolina, where I’m from, I came onto the case as a plaintiff to be a testament to the trans and gay communities,” says the 18-year-old trans activist, who’s also involved with Arts Not Parts, which creates posters to fight transphobia in bathrooms. A talented illustrator (she regularly contributes to Rookie Mag), Hunter plans to study fashion design at London’s Central Saint Martins in 2018 — a sign her creative triumphs have only just begun. — AM