As I sit right now, I am staring at the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC inscribed with the words “nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating these common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.” Reflecting on these words, it is easier than ever to be thankful for my education and to cringe at the fact that I was awarded this privilege that many across the world live without. We’ve all read about how difficult it is for females in particular to get an education in developing countries and we’ve even seen examples such as the story of Malala who was shot just for attempting to get an education, but what have we done to help? This is a question that Maryam and Nivaal Rehman had the opportunity to answer on a talk Saturday afternoon with the GirlzFTW group. It’s easy to feel intimidated by these two sixteen-year-old girls who have done more for the world at 16 than many people do in their whole lives. However, once you meet them you feel anything but intimidated. Inspired, empowered, encouraged, and ready to take on the world are just a few emotions that come to mind.
Spending the first five years of their life in Pakistan, Maryam and Nivaal began activist work at the age of eight. Yes, you heard me right, they were eight years old when they decided to make a difference. Since then they have won the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award, are hosts of a YouTube channel, and are currently working on a 3-part documentary about the environment. Perhaps the most incredible thing about these girls is that when you read their accomplishments it is easy to feel down about yourself, but they do anything but. They have spent their life inspiring girls in Pakistan to continue their education, encouraging their fellow Canadians to help protect the environment, and promoting activism everywhere they go.
The single most important thing I got from listening to them speak is that you are never too young to make a difference. Young people are often deterred from inflicting change because of lack of resources and knowledge, however we often forget that young people are perhaps the most resilient of us all. Whereas adults will constantly think of repercussions of their actions, kids will only think of how incredible things will be in the end. Act on this instinct. Go out and inspire change around you. Maryam and Nivaal’s advice for young people looking to make a difference is to start local. Does your school throw out leftover food? Does poverty make it difficult for your friends to continue going to school? Recognize these problems and act on them. You are not too young to make a difference- you just have to know where to start.
Curious about ways to get involved? Check out Maryam and Nivaal’s YouTube and learn more about what they’re doing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxbzZgqgBaOxkxOrEAtJnBQ