Activist Of The Year: June Udori

Meet ELLE's Female Activist Of The Year: June Eric-Udorie

In celebration of International Women's Day we're sharing our 10 million audience with an incredible young female activist, now meet her.

We received hundreds of nominations from incredible women wanting to be ELLE's Female Activist of the Year, and one star stood out from the rest.

Writer and feminist campaigner June Eric-Udorie is only 18-years-old but has been an active activist for over three years.

She is credited with getting feminism added to the A-Level politics curriculum in the UK, and she recently raised £6000 in a week to take 400 girls of colour from low income backgrounds to the cinema to see the film Hidden Figures, which tells the story of a team of African-American female mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA's space program.

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Here, in her own words, she tells us her activism journey so far and her plans for 2017.

'When I was 14-years-old, I learnt of how my grandmother saved my mother from female genital mutilation, or FGM.

I was horrified to learn of the practice, and the fact that millions of girls worldwide were still at risk of this gross violation of human rights. But I knew that I couldn't stay silent, because being silent made me complicit in the practice.

The first step I took was to join global children's charity, Plan UK's Youth Advisory Panel. I didn't know it then, but it would be the beginning of my journey working to campaign for the rights of women and girls around the world.

I've worked directly with the UK government on policy and campaigns to end female genital mutilation and child marriage. My activism has taken me from classrooms in the UK to conferences with world leaders at the UN.

In 2014, I was invited by the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, to be part of a youth steering community on the best ways to tackle these issues. Following the Prime Minister's summit that summer, I co-founded "Youth For Change" with other young activists, it's an organisation fully funded by the UK government that works to end violence against women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the UK.

I have a constant commitment to making the world a better, more inclusive, more equal place. In 2015, the UK government announced their changes for the A-Level Politics Syllabus, which included a removal of feminism from the curriculum and listed only one woman out of sixteen key thinkers that students would be required to study.

June Eric-Udorie
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I single-handedly led a national campaign against these changes, writing articles in The Guardian, appearing on BBC 4's Woman's Hour, in addition to starting a petition that was covered in every major British newspaper and which gained nearly 50,000 signatures in only days.

I also lobbied my local representative MP, Rupa Huq, to hold a parliamentary debate, resulting in the Education Secretary retracting her proposed changes, and announcing an addition of women and feminism to the syllabus. This is just one example of the many ways challenges do not intimidate me, they motivate me.

I recently fundraised nearly £6,000 in a week to take 450 low-income girls of colour from 17 schools around London to see the film Hidden Figures and I'm currently editing an anthology on intersectional feminism.

For the rest of 2017 my goal is to continue being authentically myself: to be bold, to be loud, to be audacious, and to bring young women, especially young women of colour along with me. I want to keep fighting for what matters to me - and to hold onto hope.'

Now Meet The Runners Up...

Three other women made the short list for their insightful and stand out methods of campaigning:

1. Ellie Yankah and Tania De Sousa - Hope Project

Ellie and Tania met whilst volunteering at the refugee camps in Greece, and bonded over a mutual dedication to working on something bigger. They quit their jobs in early 2016 to found Hope Project, which aims to help displaced adults and children by offering them more than just sleeping bags and warm clothes. Currently based in Thessaloniki, Greece, they've opened an education center offering free classes in Maths, English, sciences and valuable life skills. With recent celebrity endorsement from Grimes and MIA their project will only get bigger in 2017.

2. Mandy Smith - No More Cutting

Mandy set up a campaign 'No More Cutting' to spread awareness of Female Genital Mutilation. Coming from an advertising background she knew the topic of FGM is a really hard one to open up.'No More Cutting' is a collection of paper made genitals made from submissions from real women.

no more cutting

As Mandy said: "I wanted to create a concept and tool for charities to use that wouldn't be too in your face but would be strong enough to spread the message and not get lost in the crowd. "

3. Anna Veglio-White - Sister Supporter

Sister Supporter was conceived (no pun intended) just over a year ago when Anna was on a run in Ealing and jogged past a prayer vigil complete with plastic foetuses outside her local abortion clinic. After a failed attempt to try and get the foetuses removed she realised she'd have to tackle this in a different way.

A year later and Sister Supporter now has a network of over 600 followers, who selflessly stand outside the clinic protecting women who are accessing what is a legal medical service (not all at one time!).

Sisters supporter

They have been to questions in Parliament, featured on the ITV news and have been working with the clinic, local police and lawyers to protect the women who need to access an abortion.

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