Deja Foxx has been many things.
At 16 years old, she was labeled "the face of Planned Parenthood," a moniker Foxx earned when she went head-to-head with US Senator Jeff Flake about preserving funding for the women’s health organization (watch the viral exchange here).
Then, while studying at Columbia University, Foxx accepted a full-time position working on Vice President Kamala Harris' presidential campaign for the 2020 election. At just 21, she became the youngest staffer on the team, acting as the Influencer and Surrogate Strategist.
She has been a student, an activist, and — one day — plans to become president. But for now, the 23-year-old is focused on settling into her next title: role model.
Foxx was one of four young people awarded the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award this year for her reproductive and sexual health advocacy. The Citizen Award recognizes activists who are pushing forward the UN’s Global Goals while making an impact in their communities.
When accepting her award during the Global Citizen Prize ceremony, hosted in April in New York City as part of the 2-day action summit Global Citizen NOW, Foxx took the stage to share why being a role model is her top priority.
“There’s nothing I would rather be in this life than a good role model,” Foxx said. “The kind of person that sees potential in someone and pushes them to see it, too. The kind of leader that meets people where they are and removes barriers so that [those] most affected can lead.”
Foxx’s drive to become a role model to young people everywhere began in high school, when she lived in Arizona and was experiencing housing insecurity. She knew that birth control was key to securing her future and attending college, but her school’s curriculum did not provide enough information about how contraception works or how young people could access it.
“I was sitting in a sex education classroom that didn’t mention consent and that was medically inaccurate, knowing that I didn’t have a parent at home to fill in the gaps for me,” Foxx told Global Citizen. “That was the spark for my activism — sitting in that classroom and saying, ‘This isn’t right. I deserve better than this.’”
She connected with an organizer at Planned Parenthood to receive the tools and training she needed to rewrite her school district’s sexual education curriculum, based on what her peers needed to learn to manage their health.
Foxx didn’t stop there; the young activist also launched a project to provide reproductive and sexual health education to young people in her hometown, El Rio, Arizona.
The El Rio Reproductive Health Access Project helps marginalized teens have access to health care services. As part of the project, peer-to-peer clinics are hosted by young mothers, formerly incarcerated youth, and those struggling with addiction or homelessness.
Since its founding, the community-led initiative has provided free transportation, STI testing, PrEP, and birth control services to over 17,000 young people.
“I see sex education as connected to educational equity [and] birth control access as connected to my ability to go to college, and so much more,” Foxx said.
Even after Foxx moved from Arizona to New York City for college, her passion for community stayed with her. She looked for ways to engage with young people — whom she believes are key to crafting their own futures, rather than waiting for current leaders to hand it to them — and founded Gen Z Girl Gang.
The digital community of women and girls serves to utilize the power of social media as a community-building tool. Rather than give in to the pressure of social media to knock each other down, Gen Z Girl Gang lifts young women up through mentorship, resource-sharing, and community events.
Since its founding, Gen Z Girl Gang has grown to include over 15,000 community members across the US.
Throughout her advocacy and leadership, and all of the challenging opportunities she has taken on, Foxx ensures that her community is central to her work. That’s because she knows that empowering the people whose lived experience informs their advocacy will change minds, policies, and lives.
“We can’t keep telling people how inspired we are by them,” Foxx said while accepting the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award. “We must empower young people — not just as spokespeople or implementers, but as true stakeholders with decision-making power.”
Around the world, women’s bodies are controlled by government policies and harmful ideologies. Their lives, and their right to manage their own reproductive and sexual health, are constantly threatened by the fact that not enough women and young people get a seat at the table to inform the laws that bind them.
To change that reality, Foxx has taken the time to invest in the younger generation so they can craft their own futures — and she’s only just getting started.