Youth leaders

Meet the young education activists who are raising their hand for education around the world

GPE youth leaders are young education activists based in GPE partner and donor countries. They are raising awareness of the barriers to education and aiming to increase the ambition of leaders for financing education and development. They are supporting GPE’s financing campaign to transform education systems in their countries and around the world.

Afghanistan

  • Sonita Alizada
    Sonita Alizada
Sonita Alizada

Sonita Alizada

 - Sonita's website

Sonita Alizada is a rapper and activist, and a champion for Girls Not Brides. She was born in Herat, Afghanistan, under the reign of the Taliban regime and grew up an undocumented, refugee street child in Tehran. At the age of 10, Sonita was sold into forced marriage. The contract fell through. Her family again tried to sell her when she was 16 and she escaped. Witnessing the injustices of the world, and her friends swiftly disappearing as they were forced to marry, Sonita wrote the song “Daughters for Sale”. With the aid of an Iranian filmmaker, a music video was recorded.

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Canada

  • Maryam and Nivaal Rehman
    Maryam and Nivaal Rehman
Maryam and Nivaal Rehman

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman, age 19, are Pakistani-Canadian twin activists, journalists and filmmakers based near Toronto, Canada. They became activists when they were 8 years old in their village in Pakistan, and began inspiring girls there to continue their education. Some of their most notable work includes founding ‘The World with MNR’, their interviews with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, and the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. They were filmmakers for Disney’s “Dream Big Princess” project in 2018 and also released a documentary on girls' education in Pakistan in 2019. They have received several awards like the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award (now the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers). They see education as one of the key steps to empowering young women and creating strong foundations for societies to flourish.

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Comoros

  • Armel Azihar Sly-Vania
    Armel Azihar Sly-Vania
Armel Azihar Sly-Vania

Armel Azihar Sly-Vania

Armel Azihar sly-vania, 25 years old, is a STEM activist and educator from the Comoros Islands. Armel has worked with IMARA COMOROS NGO where the crossroads of STEM, arts, and leadership meet. Armel is the lead educator on the STEM program and media consultant for the NGO, which teaches computer programming. Armel believes transforming education is important because we need to prepare children and youth to have internationally competitive minds and be creative citizens.

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Denmark

  • Jacob Blasius
    Jacob Blasius
Jacob Blasius

Jacob Blasius

Jacob is a 24-year-old Danish student activist and International Officer at the National Union of Students in Denmark. He seeks to link the local with the global by putting young people at the center of decision-making. Jacob believes that education is most successful when it is co-created by teachers and students.

Germany

  • Ruszlan Biwoino
    Ruszlan Biwoino
  • Felize Weckner
    Felize Weckner
Ruszlan Biwoino

Ruszlan Biwoino

Ruszlan is a 21-year-old economics student. In middle school, he turned his attention to children's rights and has dedicated himself to young people’s concerns ever since. At UNICEF, Ruszlan developed social media projects like #jumpforgirls to draw attention to female genital mutilation and campaigned for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After graduating from school, he volunteered in India’s education sector to deepen his knowledge of development policy. He currently represents German youth as a UN youth delegate. Ruszlan strongly believes that education holds the promising potential to not only equip everyone with the keys to their individual success but also to create resilient and thriving communities.

Felize Weckner

Felize Weckner

Felize, 22, is studying midwifery at the University of Tübingen with a thematic focus on the relationship between education and health. Before being a youth leader for GPE, Felize gained practical experience in various human rights-related fields, among other things as a volunteer in Egypt and as a member of the student council. She is deeply passionate about gender equality and believes that even a small group of people can make big changes for the better.

Honduras

  • Diana Ayala
    Diana Ayala
Diana Ayala

Diana Ayala

Diana Ayala is 27 years old and lives in Honduras. She is part and leader of CEAAL Youth Group in Honduras and part of GCE & CLADE through Foro Dakar Honduras. She is regularly involved with advocacy actions to local governments and CSOs on the success of SDG 4, and the education sector plan of Honduras, which includes access, quality and free education for all.

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Japan

  • Maria Matsuki
    Maria Matsuki
  • Tomoko Matsunaga
    Tomoko Matsunaga
  • Aya Osawa
    Aya Osawa
  • Hiyona Otake
    Hiyona Otake
  • Masafumi Watabe
    Masafumi Watabe
Maria Matsuki

Maria Matsuki


Maria Matsuki is a 21-year-old youth leader who lives in Japan. She is a fourth year university student studying education and public policy. She realized her interest in education when she visited Manilla and saw children studying despite their living situation. Afterward, she volunteered at a local elementary school in Tamil Nadu, India, where she designed a curriculum that taught students about gender equality. She saw the gap in the quality of education children were receiving and wanted to take part in being an advocate for supporting countries to invest in children’s future.

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Tomoko Matsunaga

Tomoko Matsunaga


Tomoko Matsunaga is a 20-year-old who is studying law, with an interest in international law. She has lived in Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and the U.K. She has seen the gap between low and high-income nations and has also engaged in a project to interact with school children in an underserved rural area in the Philippines. She conducted research on the difference between the quality of life in the urban and rural areas in the Philippines and also has experience helping out as a volunteer in Morrocco to establish a new school.

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Aya Osawa

Aya Osawa


Aya Osawa is a 19-year-old youth leader in Japan who is interested in development and international law. She has volunteering experience in Vietnam and participated in a project by JICA and the Yokohama National University “Thinking from the scene: International Development”; speculating the “needs” from the perspective of the government in the developing countries. She is also looking to engage in a service learning project in India, to centralize the issue of human rights.

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Hiyona Otake

Hiyona Otake


Hiyona Otake is a 19-year-old youth ambassador in Japan who is passionate about education both at the domestic and international level. She has participated as a volunteer in Vietnam and also has experience working for the children at Cebu Island, Philippines. She founded a domestic project called "Kakehashi project," which connects children in need of food to local farmers. Besides being a GPE youth leader, she works at a bilingual prep-school that aims to expand Japanese children's possibilities in a rapidly globalizing world.

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Masafumi Watabe

Masafumi Watabe


Masafumi Watabe is a 20-year-old youth leader who majors in law. Last July, he attended the GGG+ forum held in Tokyo in which he gave a speech about the importance of education in front of the Japanese government and ministries. He is aspiring to advocate towards the Japanese government and spread awareness on the importance of education.

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Kenya

  • Cynthia Nyongesa
    Cynthia Nyongesa
  • Selina Nkoile
    Selina Nkoile
  • Angel Warira
    Angel Warira
  • Antony Were
    Antony Were
Cynthia Nyongesa

Cynthia Nyongesa

Cynthia Nyongesa is 25 years old and from Kenya. She founded a digital platform, “Cynthia Untamed” to amplify the stories of young changemakers in Africa. She uses the platform to fundraise for books for needy students. She began advocacy as a volunteer mentor with ‘Wings to Fly,’ the Equity Group and Mastercard Foundation’s scholarship initiative. She is the Generation Unlimited Youth Ambassador for Kenya. Here, she advises the Global Leadership Council and Office of the President in Kenya on education and training in creating opportunities for youth. She believes that transforming the education system equips learners with the skills to be innovative.

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Selina Nkoile

Selina Nkoile

Selina Nkoile, is 27 years old and lives in Narok, Kenya. In 2017 she founded Nashipai, which uses grassroots interventions to provide Maasai girls with opportunities for education and success. Selina is a ONE champion, youth advocate for NAYA Kenya and a member of Youth End FGM Network Kenya. She believes transforming the education system will provide a strong base for lifelong learning and opportunities.

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Angel Warira

Angel Warira

Angel Warira is a 25-year-old Kenyan youth advocate who is passionate about leadership and governance. She serves as the Secretary for Gender and International Relations of the All-Africa Students Union and a 100 Million Campaign Ambassador and has led various campaigns advocating for quality education at all levels of learning both nationally and continentally. Angel strongly believes that education is still the passport to the future.

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Antony Were

Antony Were

Antony Were is a Project officer for Humanity & Inclusion in the Inclusive Education Project. He is a trained teacher with over 4 years’ experience and has worked in special schools dedicated to children with hearing impairments. In his work he supports teachers and learners in Inclusive schools in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya.

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Nepal

  • Shradha Koirala
    Shradha Koirala
Shradha Koirala

Shradha Koirala

Shradha Koirala is 28 years old. She is the senior program coordinator for the National Campaign for Education Nepal (NCE Nepal). As the youth focal person in the organization, she believes that educational transformation is possible through and by young people as they are the real agents of change.

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Nigeria

  • Ola Abagun
    Ola Abagun
  • Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola
    Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola
  • Mukhtar H. Modibbo
    Mukhtar H. Modibbo
  • Maryjacob Okwuosa
    Maryjacob Okwuosa
Ola Abagun

Ola Abagun

Ola Abagun is a 29-year-old lawyer and activist based in Nigeria. She is the founder of Girl Pride Circle Initiative - a youth-led NGO which advocates for girls' rights to education (including comprehensive sexuality education), equal opportunities and violence-free communities. Olaoluwa strongly believes that a gender-transformative education system is critical for a truly equal and inclusive society. She is also the Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network which she represents on the Global Advisory Committee of UNGEI.

Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola

Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola

Iyunoluwa Ademola-Popoola is 21 years old. She lives in Ilorin, Kwara state, Nigeria, and attends university in Ibadan. She is a volunteer with OneAfricanChild for creative learning. OneAfricanChild is creating a society that fosters creativity, education and innovation among young Africans. Iyunoluwa believes that the educational system in Nigeria has to be transformed because presently it isn’t inclusive.

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Mukhtar H. Modibbo

Mukhtar H. Modibbo

Mukhtar H. Modibbo is 24 years old and lives in Abuja, Nigeria. He is a social development advocate and a champion of the FollowTheMoney initiative, which works in over 10 African countries. He specializes in practical issues around education financing, advocacy and development of education policies as it affects rural and deprived grassroots communities. Mukhtar believes that education is at the heart of any national development.

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Maryjacob Okwuosa

Maryjacob Okwuosa

Maryjacob Okwuosa is a 25-year-old Nigerian. Maryjacob coordinates Activista in Nigeria as a platform to build the capacity of young people to demand quality and accessible education for all in Nigeria. Maryjacob is also the founder and Executive Director of Whisper to Humanity, a youth-led feminist organization that is training teachers and students to create a more conducive learning space for all. Maryjacob represents Whispers to Humanity in Transform Education, a youth led organization hosted by UNGEI.

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Norway

  • Martine Billing
    Martine Billing
  • Kamilla Engebretsen
    Kamilla Engebretsen
  • Sunniva Roligheten
    Sunniva Roligheten
Martine Billing

Martine Billing

Martine is a 23-year-old activist from Norway. She just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Politics and has volunteered for various organizations that advocate for human rights and raise awareness about international issues. Amongst these are SAIH (Students' and Activists' International Assistance Fund), where she is the incoming Vice President for the period of 2021/2022. SAIH is a solidarity organization for and by Norwegian students and academics working to ensure rights to higher education and academic freedom internationally. She believes that education is the key to solve the challenges of tomorrow, and ensure a better, safer and more just world for all.

Kamilla Engebretsen

Kamilla Engebretsen

Kamilla is a 19-year-old student who, as the youth representative on the board of Plan International Norway, lives out her passion about gender equality and education in crisis. Kamilla has also worked with Save the Children Youth and is currently a Junior Advisor for sexual and reproductive health and rights at Plan Norway. She firmly believes that education is key to ensure just and equitable development for all, especially for girls.

Sunniva Roligheten

Sunniva Roligheten

Sunniva is a 20-year-old student and author. She currently works as a project leader in a small organization working on the inclusion of youth from both minority and majority groups. Prior to this, she worked at Operasjon Dagsverk (Operation Day's Work), Norway's biggest solidarity movement for, and run by, youth. Sunniva believes that education is the best way to create a sustainable and just world.

Sierra Leone

  • Josephine Kamara
    Josephine Kamara
  • Fatu Sewanatu Mansaray
    Fatu Sewanatu Mansaray
Josephine Kamara

Josephine Kamara

Josephine Kamara is a 27 year old girls’ rights advocate from Sierra Leone. Recently, she led Purposeful and its Coalition for Girls Education to raise public awareness and influence the government of Sierra Leone to overturn the policy that banned pregnant girls from attending schools. Josephine believes that a strong army of educated female children can change Africa.

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Fatu Sewanatu Mansaray

Fatu Sewanatu Mansaray

Fatu Sewanatu Mansaray is 20 years old and a Sierra Leonean living in Freetown. She has used her voice to challenge world leaders and local governments to invest in education for all. Fatu is part of Plan International’s youth network and sits on the guiding group of Transform Education, a youth led network hosted by UNGEI. The network uses advocacy to bring changes to their communities. Fatu believes that transforming education will solve many of the inequalities in her country for example teenage pregnancy.

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South Korea

  • Yuna Baek
    Yuna Baek
  • Jimin Kim
    Jimin Kim
  • Heejae Lee
    Heejae Lee
  • SinHye Park
    SinHye Park
  • Heebum Shin
    Heebum Shin
Yuna Baek

Yuna Baek

Yuna Baek is a 24-year-old South Korean youth leader who is studying economics. She spent her adolescence in Malaysia - where she witnessed the education crises of Southeast Asia, shaping her to become an advocate for equality of opportunity in education. As a youth leader, she is committed to reforming education systems by amplifying awareness of GPE’s mandates, both domestically and globally. In addition to her international experiences in green growth and governance, she hopes to extend her studies in the development field with a focus on education policies.

Jimin Kim

Jimin Kim

Jimin Kim is a 24-year-old South Korean youth leader who believes in the power of education and the need for global engagement to achieve it. Her passion for education sparked from 3 years of teaching disadvantaged teenagers. She then joined Dreamtouch for All, an NGO aiming for quality education for every child, to design and carry out customized after-school programs. To promote more educational opportunities, she took a leading role in hosting a youth conference and she believes better education worldwide is a must for a better future.

Heejae Lee

Heejae Lee

Heejae Lee is a 27-year-old South Korean youth leader with a passion for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Her previous work experience at international organizations inspired her to pursue further education in the field of social science. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s program of International Relations and Political Science and she truly believes in the power of education and the creativity of youth. She wants to support inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for young people in conflict-affected regions.

SinHye Park

SinHye Park

SinHye Park is a 24-year-old youth advocate from South Korea, who has great enthusiasm towards human rights, international law, international cooperative development and education. She previously worked as a research intern at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Washington office, where she found her genuine passion for human rights and equality. Following this passion, she has fundraised for medical care for refugees in Korea and recently engaged in a domestic NGO for immigrants and children’s education. As a GPE youth leader, she truly believes that positive change and transformation for all is achievable in the name of “education.”

Heebum Shin

Heebum Shin

Heebum Shinv is a 27-year-old avid human rights supporter who seeks to effect change through well-designed public policy. With a strong belief in the power of multilateral cooperation in addressing human rights challenges, he interned at UNHCR and UNICEF where he developed advocacy strategies and conducted research on human rights issues. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Uganda

  • Bridget Akurut
    Bridget Akurut
Bridget Akurut

Bridget Akurut

Bridget Akurut is 26 years old and lives in Kampala, Uganda. She has been an advocate for girl’s education as a FAWE alumni and she is Alumni Representative to the FAWE General Assembly, as member of the Educate - Her Alliance, Youth leader in Archdiocese of Kampala among others. She strongly believes that education creates equal opportunities for both boys and girls.

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United Kindgom

  • Ayesha Farah
    Ayesha Farah
  • Meron Haile
    Meron Haile
  • Oluwafeyisikemi (Sikemi) Okunrinboye
    Oluwafeyisikemi (Sikemi) Okunrinboye
Ayesha Farah

Ayesha Farah

Ayesha is a 28-year-old British-Somali who is a passionate advocate for global education, committed to change through the power of youth participation. She is currently a Campaigns Officer for Send My Friend to School, the preeminent UK civil society coalition demanding quality education for children worldwide. Having graduated with a master’s in public policy, she was previously the Vice President of Somali Youth Organization, a parliamentary mentor for the Three Faiths Forum and selected for a UN program in New York. Sitting on the 2021 G7 Youth Implementation Taskforce, Ayesha is a driving force for the prioritization of education in donor countries. She is proud of her Somali heritage and committed to being a change-agent for her community.

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Meron Haile

Meron Haile

Meron is a 26-year-old who grew up in Ethiopia and currently lives and studies in London. She is doing her masters at the University of Greenwich and works for the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. As a dedicated volunteer at the Refugee Support Network, Meron sits on their Youth Advisory Board to help other refugee and asylum-seeking children have a future through education. She believes education is for all and every child should be given the opportunity to learn, change their own life and be part of global change.

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Oluwafeyisikemi (Sikemi) Okunrinboye

Oluwafeyisikemi (Sikemi) Okunrinboye

Sikemi is a 20-year-old law student at the University of Kent, who was born and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. She has always been passionate about equality, but having been a secondary school student at the time of the Chibok kidnappings in 2014, became even more passionate about protection within education systems. Having seen the impact of COVID-19 in the UK, Sikemi is concerned about how it is affecting countries in the Global South, but particularly how it’s disproportionately affecting girls. Sikemi serves as a ONE ambassador and GPE youth leader in the UK, as well as sitting on the Inclusive Change Advisory Group for CoppaFeel. Sikemi is dedicated to using her skills for inciting change.

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Vietnam

  • Duong Phuong Anh
    Duong Phuong Anh
Duong Phuong Anh

Duong Phuong Anh

Dương Phương Anh is a teacher and a youth activist for gender equality and girls' rights from Vietnam. She is a member of the Champions of Change network and a youth advisor of Plan International, working to amplify youth and girls' voices. Anh believes that a transformative education system is the key for to achieve an equitable and free world for all.

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Zimbabwe

  • Ashlegh Pfunye
    Ashlegh Pfunye
Ashlegh Pfunye

Ashlegh Pfunye

Ashlegh Pfunye is a 24-year-old social justice activist from Zimbabwe who strongly believes in quality education for all. He has served as the Secretary General of Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU). Ashlegh has been at the forefront for advocating for equal access to education for all and has led campaigns, protests and peaceful initiatives in efforts to make education free for all in Zimbabwe.

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