Rebecca Z. Gyumi was just a young girl when she recognized that boys were treated differently than girls. At age 13, she witnessed some of her friends drop out of school because they were married off. “It bothered me that the age for boys to be married was 18 but for girls it was 14," she told CNN. Now, the Tanzanian lawyer is the founder and executive director of Msichana Initiative, an NGO that aims to empower young girls through education and address the challenges that can limit a girl’s right to education. In 2016, she won a landmark ruling in Tanzania which raised the minimum age of marriage from 14 to 18, and in 2018, she was awarded the UN’s Human Rights Prize, following in the footsteps of activists including Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.
She is internationally known for her work in advancing the rights of young children. But she credits one thing to her success: “The fact that I'm here today and doing what I'm doing is due to education,” she told CNN. “My family didn't have a lot but they sacrificed what they had to give me an education. Imagine what it's like for other people in my country, if they're able to get an education and explore life without limits, without boys telling them 'you're a girl, you can only go as far as this,' those kind of voices can then be challenged."