There have been many moments in 2012 when we have felt worried for our children: we have a feeling that this was the year we read most terrible news about children, and when we had to explain to our kids tragedies that should never have happened. But there is a lot of hope, and it comes from children themselves: many of them have achieved incredible successes this year, making the world a better place for grown-ups too. We had many to chose from and they were all equally amazing, but here are our five children of the year: we want to close this 2012 with them, and send our best wishes to all the kids and all their parents for a wonderful, fantabulous 2013!
1 – Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, 16, Egypt. Scientist.
Egyptian teenage scientist Azza has found a way to turn plastic waste into fuel. Using an inexpensive catalyst, she is hoping to create $78 million worth of bionfuel each year. The economic impact of his discovery could be great of Egypt, considering that the country currently consumes one million ton of plastic every year.
2 – Julia Bluhm, 14, USA. Activist.
As a teenager, Julia is aware of how the modified pictures on magazines skew young girls’ perception of human body and beauty. So, in June she initiated a successful campaign on change.org against altered pictures in Seventeen magazine. In just a few days, she had 84,000 supporters, and less then a month after she started the campaign she was meeting with Seventeen’s editor in chief, who agreed to a “Body Peace Treaty,” pledging the magazine would not change girls’ body and face shapes in the published pictures, as well as to share the work in progress behind photo shoots, so girls can see how images look before they are photoshopped.
3 – Martha Payne, 9, UK. Food Blogger.
Tired of the poor quality of the food her school in Scotland was serving, Martha opened a blog, Never Seconds. On the site, she would publish pictures of her school lunches and rate if for taste, healthiness and (ew) number of hair found. Her blog drew a lot of media attention and became really popular, so much so that she and her dad (who helped her with the blog) managed to have a meeting with the local council, who agreed to serve the kids in schools unlimited amounts of salad, fruit and bread, and gave them overall better meals.
4- Caine Monroy, 9, US. Entrepreneur.
While most kids stop at dreaming of owning their own game arcade, Caine went a step further and made his happen. With cardboard, in his dad’s used auto-parts store, he built a full arcade, tickets, fun passes, prizes and all. Caine became a bit of a celebrity, and inspired many kids to build their own games.
5. Malala Yousafzai, 15, Pakistan. Education activist.
At the age of 12, in 2009, Malala wrote a blog for BBC detailing her life and struggles under the Taliban, particularly speaking about her difficult condition as a female student. She then became Chair of District Child Assembly Swat, an assembly where youngsters from her region can express their concerns about the issues that affect them, and bravely spoke up against the Taliban rule and in favor of female education. In October 2011 she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Price. In October 2012, Malala was victim of an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunman: the act was meant to punish her for publicly criticizing the Taliban rule. Although her conditions were critical, Malala did not die, and is slowly recovery. November 10, 2012, was UN’s first World Malala Day.