Amika George, 21, was the youngest person on the Queen’s Honors list in June when she was awarded an MBE for her work with Free Periods. She talks about activism, online learning and her future plans.
Amika Georges. Image: The Connor Brothers
Amika George was quite a year old. The period poverty activist published her first book, Make it happen, in January, was the youngest person on the Queen’s Honors list in June, and studied quickly from Cambridge.
It’s no surprise that the 21-year-old now presents himself in a celebration of “New Britain”, but how does it feel to be the face of a generation?
“It’s a great honor,” says George The Big Issue. “The idea of a new UK for me feels really exciting — the idea that if we come out of a post-covid world it will be better and everything that has happened in the last year and a half is a chance to make things better It’s refreshing. “
George started fighting for free period products in schools in 2017 at the age of 17. She read an article about girls in England missing education because they could not afford sanitary products and started an online petition from their bedroom.
She founded the Non-Profit Free Periods the same year and, in 2019, she launched a campaign with the Red Box Project, challenging the government’s human rights commitment to achieve equal access to education for all. Within two months, ministers were committed to providing free sanitary products to schools, as has already happened in Scotland and Wales.
Far from being influenced by political decisions, George is one of thousands of students who studied at a distance last year.
After completing her history studies, she spent the summer at home in London and is now planning a well-deserved break.
She is also looking forward to finally making personal events for the paperback launch of her book, A Guide to Effective Activism, in January, waiting months to see the hardback on the shelves due to lockdown (“it felt like it didn’t would not come out “).
There is also the small thing an MBE to get services for education. When the news broke of her honor, George wrote a piece for Vogue detailing how she had fought, whether she wanted to accept it or not, following the violent history of the British Empire that she was part of her diploma had studied.
She explained how she decided to accept it in part as a way to draw attention to imperial history, and also because young people of color are underrepresented in politics and activism.
“I knew what I was doing people did not agree with but ultimately the nature of a prize is such that it is personal,” she says.
“My justification was very intricate in my identification and family history and how I felt about Britain. In the end, it was a personal decision and I felt it was really important to use it as an opportunity to talk about it.
‘There are many things wrong with social media … but activism is one of the positives’
Social media can be a hard place for young campaigns. Online activism is often ridiculed for not really delivering change but, as a young man who successfully pushed ministers to create new policies, George knows the value of digital platforms.
She goes on to say: “I think the most successful activism or campaigns integrate both [online and offline activism] together – you can not have one without the other. During Free Periods when we held a protest on Downing Street in late 2017 everyone came because they saw it on Instagram or Twitter.
“In 2021, it would be quite difficult to get traction offline without online support and I think quite often people who are not involved in online activism can underestimate the power they have.
“There are so many people who have really made concrete changes in legislation or the workplace or schools through online petitions or Instagram. There are many things wrong with social media and the platforms have a responsibility to sort them out, but Activism is one of the positives.
As for the future, George is not sure where she wants to focus her energy.
“I wish I had specific goals,” she says with a laugh. “There have been quite a few existential questions going through my head now that I’m done. I think I’ll always be involved in some kind of activism and campaign, but I do not know exactly what I want my job to be.
Whichever way she chooses, George will certainly not be offered.
What do the Connor Brothers say?
We photographed Amika as part of a project about people we look up to, and the phrase ‘look out for’ feels important here.
Traditionally, younger people are spoken to, or patronized, when expressing their opinions, or asked to be heard on topics that affect them (and / or others).
Talking to Amika makes you realize how ridiculous this attitude is. And it’s not that Amika is a kind of exception among young people, a kind of outlier, she is not.
This is a generation that recognizes injustice and demands change. The truth is, part of the reason why we have fucked up the world so badly is that we have not given enough weight to the voices and opinions of young people, who often see things more clearly than the rest. of us when it comes to issues of social justice.
Too often we are either comfortably blind to injustice or recognize it and think, well, that’s it. People like Amika call it bullshit about it, and show that with the right action meaningful change is possible.
This article is from the exclusive Connor Brothers takeover of The Big Issue, which is now out. Get the special edition, full of custom graphics and sure to be a collector’s item, from your local seller or from The Big Issue Shop.