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Girls walk together outside Yomelela Primary School in Khayelitsha, the largest informal township in Cape Town, South Africa. Grassroot Soccer developed the innovative “SKILLZ Street” program to specifically focus on young girls and their unique needs through soccer at Yomelela Primary School.
Karin Schermbrucker/UN Women
Girls & Women

6 African Youth Activists You Need to Know


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Women’s rights, education, health: these activists are tackling all kinds of issues across Africa — and inspiring a new generation of young people to join them. Want to support their mission? Take action here here.

The world is filled with people fighting on a daily basis for the greater good of humankind.

And while there is a misconception that Gen Z (the generation after millennials) are always online and apathetic about the world’s issues, young activists from across the globe have proven that to be untrue — fighting for their lives and their communities.

Take Action: Email South Africa’s Minister of Health Urging Him to Invest in Ending Neglected Tropical Diseases

Fresh off the announcement that Global Citizen is going to South Africa on December 2 for the Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, in proud partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, check out just a few young African activists changing the world — and be inspired to take action yourself.

1. Zulaikha Patel, 15, South Africa

Two years ago, at the age of 13, Indian-South African activist Zulaikha Patel made local headlines when a video went viral of her protesting her high school’s policy against natural hair.

The teenager was threatened with arrest as she led a silent demonstration against her school’s “racist” hair policy.

Learn more: Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 on Dec. 2 in Johannesburg

As a result of the protest, the Gauteng Education Department launched an investigation into school hair policies. This action also inspired other protests about official policies accused of being steeped in racial discrimination.

Since then, Patel has been included in the BBC’s 100 Women list in 2016, which recognises the world’s leading female voices. She joined other prominent South African women on the list, including former public protector Thuli Madonsela and Zoleka Mandela, an activist and Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter.

2. Angeline Makore, 21, Zimbabwe

Makore is a young leader from Zimbabwe, campaigning for health and the well-being of women and girls in her country.

After nearly becoming a victim of child marriage herself when she was 14 years old, she became an activist against the practice.

Read More: The 5 Black Activists You Need To Know About

She’s rescued victims of child marriage and sexual abuse, and is the founder of the organisation Spark R.E.A.D (Resilience, Empowerment, Activism, and Development), a non-profit organisation that focuses on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health issues.

3. Kelvin Doe, 21, Sierra Leone

You might know him as DJ Focus. At the age of 13, Doe, from Sierra Leone, became a inventor when he started creating things out of scrap electronic parts that he found lying around.

He started off making his own batteries by wrapping acid, soda, and metal in a tin cup with tape to help power lights in people’s homes. From there, he went on to build a generator for his community out of homemade or rescued spare parts, and used it to power a community radio station that he also built from recycled materials.

By the time he was 15 years old, Doe became the youngest-ever “visiting practitioner” with the MIT International Development Initiative, where he had the chance to present his inventions to MIT students and take part in research.

In 2012, Doe was also invited to speak at the TedXTeen Conference at Harvard University.

4. Elizabeth Williams, 21, Nigeria

Elizabeth Williams is a sexual health and rights advocate from Nigeria, educating young girls about gender equality.

She also does work with young boys — as she understands the importance of ensuring that everyone is aware of the rights they have.

Read More:12 Female Activists You Didn’t Know Are Changing The World

In 2015 Williams, along with two other teen activists, was invited to the International Center for Research on Women, just before the UN National Assembly, and spoke on a panel about the importance of helping young women succeed and thrive globally.

5. Imraan Christian, South Africa

Nike, Adidas, MTV, RedBull.

Imraan Christian has taken his photography all over the world — but in South Africa, he’s best known for his activism.

In Hangberg, he designed a mural depicting children using musical instruments instead of guns. In Cape Town, he taught young creatives the “tricks of the trade” on a program sponsored by Adidas, according to CNN.

And in 2015, Christian found fame shooting the “Fees Must Fall” protests against rising students fees, just as it turned violent outside South Africa’s parliament — capturing a historical moment in the process.

"It's about channeling that same passion and force into a more positive way,” he told CNN. “It's a reminder for young people that the potential is infinite — that they should dream wildly.”

6. Sanele Junior Xaba, 23, South Africa

When Sanele Junior Xaba was growing up with albinism in Durban, just after South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, he was bullied by the other children.

Now he has modelled for Adidas and GQ — and campaigns for the rights of others struggling with the stigma that still surrounds albinism in Africa.

Read More: Tanzanian Court Sentenced Six to Prison for Cutting Off the Hand of Albino Boy

That includes working with Inside the Same, a nonprofit from Holland, with whom he travelled to an orphanage in Tanzania to visit abandoned children with the same condition — a country where kids like them have previously been hunted for body parts to fetch high prices as witchcraft charms.

“I realise it sounds a bit Zoolander, but I want to play my part to promote diversity in the industry,” Xaba told the Guardian. “The commercial end of fashion is crucial as it dictates what’s cool, and the idea of cool is changing drastically. It feels more inclusive, but it can still do a whole lot better.”

“Now that I’ve realised I can use my looks to raise awareness and to challenge the perceptions and stereotypes about the condition, I’ve started to take a lot more pride in my own albinism,” he added.

Most people look for flowers in a word to fit a description of the kind of love they've been conditioned to deem worthy. soulmate has fire, and life partner has flair. Human beings want glamour, especially in the heart of romance. I personally believe intensity is the vein of any successful relationship. Creating a space where emotions can live in a spectrum and survive through all conditions. The juxtaposition i've come to understand is that, perspective allows you to see what you're looking to see. Being intensely in love is scary for most people because of experiences they've buried underneath the facade of looking for love with wounds that are beyond rotten. Life partner sonically sounds like a wind's dance. Soft, careful. soul mate is an erupting volcano with ashes that still burn into coil. Both are the same depending on what you're looking for in a relationship and I pray it's not careful. Love isn't that calculated, just feel it. Life partner or soul-mate, find whatever suits you but love is all the same. #TheIcePrince _________ Photographer @michellevdijk Stylist @kristivlok MUA @juliettedenouden Retoucher @zillavandenborn

A post shared by Sanele Junior Xaba (@sanele_xaba) on


The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.

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