Welcome to the second post of our week-long look at inspiring women in honour of this Friday's International Women's Day. Today we're looking at 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Since last summer, Thunberg has been making waves as a climate change activist. Many young people before her have spoken out about the need to take this crisis seriously. But few as young as her have done so with such strength and focus.
She refuses to accept empty words of hope from politicians. Or calls for patience from business leaders. For Thunberg, that time has passed—from now on, only action will do.
So how did this young woman come to grab the attention of not only her country, but much of the world?
Sitting this one out
Greta's story begins August 20, 2018, when she was 15 and about to begin Grade 9. Like many young people, she was becoming more and more aware of the threat of climate change. In fact, that summer, Sweden had experienced record heat waves and wildfires, similar to the ones also experienced in places like British Columbia and California. Her country was also due to have an election on September 9. So she figured out a way to make a mark.
She went on strike.
Usually a strike is a form of protest when workers do not go to work as a way of demanding better rights or wages. But in Thunberg's case, she didn't go to school. And not just on August 20. On the next day, too. And the day after that.
Instead, she stood in front of the Swedish parliament building every day until the September 9th election with a sign that read: Skolstrejk För Klimatet.
School Strike For Climate.
Make that 'School Strikes For Climate'
Greta's demands were for the Swedish government to better address climate change and live up to the commitments of the Paris Agreement. Even after the election ended, she continued to go on school strike every Friday. Some people called her irresponsible. Others said that she should just go back to school.
But her actions also caught the attention of fellow students. They were inspired by this young woman's courage and tenacity. Gradually, hundreds, then thousands of students organized their own School Strikes For Climate. At this point, an estimated 20,000 students have gone on these strikes.
And that number is about to get larger.
On March 15, youth groups across 51 countries are going to perform the biggest school strike yet for climate. It's difficult to say how many young people in total will march, but it could reach as high as 500,000. That's a lot of people.
And it likely wouldn't be happening at all without Greta Thunberg.
While all of this has been happening, she has been invited to speak at climate conferences and gatherings around the world. Every time she makes a speech, her clear, passionate, and uncompromising delivery inspires more people.
Here is her speech for the UN Climate Conference in December 2018.