In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, Two Views is highlighting 5 activists working to secure equal rights and social justice around the world.  Here is our list of 5 tireless advocates who have dared to speak up in the hope of making our lives better:

  1. Fatima Jibrell

 0702jibrellIn a country that lacked a central government for nearly two decades, the fate of Somalia’s environment  would seem nearly futile.  Fatima Jibrell, however, persevered  as an environmental activist working to empower local communities to conserve and  manage their natural resources.  In the wake of Somalia’s 1991 civil war, she co-founded the non-profit organization Adeso (previously called the Horn of Africa Relief and Develop Organization). In recognition of her advocacy of community-driven environmental consciousness, Jibrell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 and the National Geographic/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation in 2007.  Most recently in November 2014, she became Somalia’s first Champion of the Earth, the United Nations top environment award.

  1. Emily Stanger

In 2012, emilyForbes Magazine named Emily Stanger to its Top 30 Under 30 list.  Since then, Stanger has been working in Liberia and Sierra Leone to enhance economic opportunities for women in West Africa.  In early 2014, when many were fleeing Sierra Leone during the peak of the Ebola outbreak, Emily redirected her efforts and became an advisor in the Office of the President in Sierra Leone to combat the rapid spread of the ebola virus. One of Stanger’s many contributions to organizing Sierra Leone’s ebola response was spearheading the transformation of a local hotline into a high capacity call center that answered and responded to more than 2,000 ebola-related calls daily. Stanger continues to work tirelessly with the hope that Sierra Leone will be ebola-free in the very near future.

  1. Founders of #BlackLivesMatter

blmAfter the killing of Trayvon Martin, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, demanded change.  They created and launched #BlackLivesMatter as a call to action for black people against institutional racism.  Since its creation in 2013, the movement has been a galvanizing force across the United States organizing hundreds of thousands of individuals to speak out, march, and join together against racism. Opal Tometi, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter described the movement as individuals “engaging in radical acts of civil disobedience, by bringing our visions and our dreams and the needs of our communities to the halls of power across the country, by doing teach-ins about the social and economic issues that, when resolved through social and legislative action and by connecting climate change, gentrification, poverty and economic inequality—thereby further illuminating the dream of Black Lives Matter.”

4.  Reshma Saujani

rjaBorn to parents expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin, Saujani is founder of Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.  Through Girls Who Code, Saujani empowers young girls to claim a better future and pursue careers in the computing field. Among other achievements in pursuit of women’s equality, she is: the author of the book Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way; the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress; and the former Deputy Public Advocate for New York City.


  1. Edith Windsor

edith Time Magazine named her to its Person of the Year list, calling her the “unlikely activist.” Windsor is best known as the plaintiff in the landmark United States Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor, in which, for the first time in its history, the court recognized marriage between same sex partners. Lawfully married in Canada and living in New York when Windsor’s spouse died in 2006, the United States Government denied Windsor a federal estate tax exemption claiming that the exemption did not apply to same sex marriages.  Unwilling to accept differentiated treatment, Windsor, an affluent woman in her 80s, pounded the steps of justice, taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. Since the court’s ruling, Windsor has become an icon in the gay rights and marriage equality movements.

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  1. Thanks for these new names and great missions that I had yet to learn about. I can’t wait to learn more about them and follow you guys on Twitter.

  2. Great piece Stephanie. I love how MLK day has become a day of service and a day to remember not just MLK, but those who walk in his footsteps.
    Kudos to Emily Stanger. I worked with her in Liberia and was immediately impressed with her ability to garner the respect and trust of those she advocated for. She’s the real deal and Liberia and Sierra Leone are better off because of her.

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