The 17-year-old Swede rose to prominence when she began publicly voicing her passionate opinions on climate change inaction. It all began in 2018 when Thunberg instigated a school strike. Sitting in front of Sweden’s parliament with a homemade banner, she posted to Twitter: “We children usually don’t do as you tell us to do, we do as you do. And if you adults don’t care about my future, neither do I. I will school strike for the climate until election day.”
Although she was the only participant in the strike on that day, the media took a keen interest in the cause and it didn’t take long for her influence to grow. Other students followed suit in their own areas, striking for the climate in a movement that became known as Fridays For Future. Within 12 months, momentum had picked up considerably with millions of young people participating in coordinated protests around the world.
Addressing the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York, her words hit hard as she accused global governments of ignoring the science behind climate change. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she stated. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear.”
While Thunberg’s passionate pleas have galvanised an army, her efforts have also drawn criticism from social media trolls, news outlets and public figures, including President Trump. Despite this, she has brought climate change to the fore and kicked off what will undoubtedly be the movement that shapes the decade. Thunberg was named 2019’s TIME Person of the Year – the youngest person to ever hold the title – and she was also nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
A vocal activist for women’s rights in the Arab world, al-Sharif rose to prominence when she dared to video herself driving in Saudi Arabia – a committable offence for females at the time. She went on to found the Women2Drive movement.
Sampat Pal Devi
After witnessing a man beating his wife in her Northern Indian village, Pal Devi wanted justice and this led to the foundation of the Gulabi Gang. It’s a vigilante group that fights against domestic violence and child marriage – traditions that Indian women were previously powerless against.
From CEOs and politicians to humanitarians and athletes, we profile 30 extraordinary trailblazers creating major change in 2020. Greta Thunberg, Manal al-Sharif and Sampat Pal Devi are among the iconic women we’re celebrating this International Women’s Day.