Bold Future: The Young Folks Who Are Paving Our Way
Categories: Current Events

Bold Future: The Young Folks Who Are Paving Our Way

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the women who are boldly daring to make waves, smash barriers, and build a better future for womankind. Meet: The future of feminism. 

Ashima Shiraishi

Who She Is: Ashima Shiraishi, professional rock climber.

Where She’s From: New York City.

Claim to Fame: At just 15 years old, Ashima Shiraishi has already accomplished more than many professional athletes twice her age. A world-renowned rock climber, Ashima began setting records at the incredible age of eight and it didn’t take her long to start winning gold medals and world titles in climbing competitions around the globe.

Why She’s a Bold Woman to Watch: Born and raised in New York City, Shiraishi started climbing when she was six, using Central Park and Brooklyn Boulders as her training grounds. Fast forward to March 2016 and Shiraishi was off to her family’s native Japan where she became the youngest person —and only female ever — to climb Horizon, a boulder located on Mt. Hiei that comes with a difficulty level of V15 out of a possible maximum V16.

Speaking with TIME following her amazing accomplishment, Ashima said: “In climbing, gender really doesn’t matter. You’re just facing the wall. Even if you’re bigger or smaller than someone, you’re tackling the same thing. It’s just your determination and focus and dedication, and that’s what makes you stronger.”

Ashima has singlehandedly managed to break gender stereotypes in the world of rock climbing (and sports in general!) and she’s just getting started. She could soon be one of the first climbers in the world to compete at an Olympic level, as the International Olympic Committee has officially approved climbing to be a newly featured sport in the 2020 Games in Tokyo. If she makes the team, Ashima will be going for gold in the same city where her parents met and where she conquered her first V15 climb. Talk about serendipity! (Author: Barbara Pavone. Photo via Lars Niki/Getty)

Jazz Jennings

Who She Is: Jazz Jennings is a TV star, popular YouTube personality, spokesperson and LGBTQ+ rights activist.

Where She’s From: South Florida.

Claim to Fame: At 16 years old, Jennings is one of the youngest and most outspoken transgender public figures — and has been since her Barbara Walters interview in 2007 when she was just six years old (!).

She’s insisted she was a girl ever since she could first speak, and while her parents struggled to understand why their assigned-at-birth male-gender child preferred to wear dresses and be referred to correctly as she, it wasn’t long before Jazz was living as her true self with the full support of her family.

Why She’s a Bold Woman to Watch: She may have gotten started young, but Jazz’s star is still very much on the rise. Her wildly popular Youtube channel spawned a TLC reality show called I Am Jazz, now in its second season; in 2016 she released a memoir, Being Jazz, and was asked to be a grand marshal in NYC’s Pride Parade and she’s the inspiration behind the first transgender doll to hit store shelves. “For those asking: the doll is considered to be the first ‘transgender’ doll because it’s based on an individual who is trans,” she replied to commenters who asked what made the doll transgender. “Of course it is still just a regular girl doll because that’s exactly what I am: a regular girl!” Preach (Author: Nicole Villeneuve. Photos via Astrid Stawiarz /Getty.)

AMANDLA STENBERG

Who They Are: Amandla Stenberg, actress, musician, and activist.

Where They’re From: Los Angeles.

Claim to Fame: Amandla Stenberg is a nonbinary actor (they prefer being addressed with pronouns they/them but also okay with she/her) who first came on the scene with the popularity of the first The Hunger Games movie when they played the character Rue, who strikes a friendship with Katniss Everdeen during the games.

Why They’re a Bold Person to Watch: Though Stenberg was only 14 when the movie came out in 2012, they decided to use their newfound visibility to speak about the things that matter to her, including activism, cultural appropriation, and intersectional feminism.

You’ll want to keep your eye on Stenberg in the coming years because of their uncompromising values, and the way they lead by example. They’re smarter than many folks thrice their age, and they have a lot of valuable things to say about the importance of intersectional feminism — especially in our current social climate. Stenberg has told Nylon: “Black female voices need to be uplifted within the mainstream feminist movement, especially at this time. It’s crucial.” Keep an eye on their current projects and anything they’re doing, because Amandla Stenberg is the bomb-dot-com. (Author: Rosemary Donahue. Photo via Mike Windle/Getty.)

Marley Dias

Who She Is: Marley Diaz, middle school student and activist.

Where She’s From: New Jersey.

Claim to Fame: Frustrated by the lack of stories that featured black girls front and center, then-11-year-old Dias launched #1000BlackGirlsBooks in 2016. The initiative sought to collect and donate children’s books where black girls are the main characters.

In an interview with the Philly Voice, Dias described the conversation she had with her mother that inspired the drive: “I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs. ”What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”

Why She’s a Bold Woman to Watch: Dias may only be 12, but she’s already got a book deal. The young bookworm and champion of representation in literature has her first children’s book coming out with Scholastic in Spring 2018. (Author: Kelli Korducki. Photo via Gustavo Caballero/Getty.)

Which young leaders give you faith in the future? Tell us @britandco!

(Illustrations by Sarah Tate/Brit + Co)