Roy Gilbert

Teen Girl Leaders In A Pandemic: Fight For What’s Right, Then Groove To BTS

If you ask Giovanna Basso, a teen activist from Brazil, what she’s been doing in the pandemic, she’ll tell you she’s been listening to the South Korean pop group BTS, watching Netflix to improve her English and writing letters in calligraphy to her friends.

She’s also been lobbying the government to provide free menstrual products in schools — and hosting virtual events on gender equality as a leader for the U.N.-sponsored group Girl Up.

For girls like Basso, 19, being a teen and an activist is a balancing act. She was one of more than 4,000 young people who attended the virtual Girl Up 2021 Leadership Summit on July 13 and 14. The conference offered sessions on topics such as gender-based violence, LGBTQ issues, mental health and personal finance. It also featured inspirational speakers such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Amina J. Mohammed , the deputy secretary-general of the U.N.

Basso and three other Girl Up activists — Joanne Lee, 19, from Seoul, South Korea; Mofiyin Onanuga, 17, from London; and Emma Fetzer, 19, from Provo, Utah — talked to NPR about the challenge of being teen activists in a pandemic. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

What are some issues you’ve been working on with girls in your community?

Basso: Period poverty. Since March 2020, Girl Up clubs [in Brazil have been lobbying the government] to approve a law to distribute menstrual products in public schools. Although we got the legislative chamber to approve […]

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