Malala first became a thorn in the side of the Taliban by campaigning to improve the education of girls under Taliban rule in the Swat District of Pakistan. In October 2012, when she was 15, she survived a Taliban assassination attempt that drew worldwide condemnation. Her activism has continued — during an October meeting with President Barack Obama, she expressed her concerns about drone strikes in Pakistan.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne
Sri Lankan environmental activist started volunteering at age 13 after the tsunami struck her country. She has been a key figure in the replanting of 12,000 mangrove trees in Sri Lanka to minimize the impact of other potential natural disasters. She has helped more than 5,000 families through her Growin’ Money eco-social enterprise and is the co-founder of Green the Climate, a nonprofit that promotes renewable energy and organic farming practices.
“We decided to do whatever possible to direct the attention of young people like us to be the generation of people who make things right and walk the walk.”
Egyptian-American filmmaker, writer and actor whose montage of video footage from the January 2011 street protests in Cairo captured the frustrations of Egyptian people rebelling against their repressive government. The film went viral, receiving over 2 million views while being blocked in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. His second video shows students from different countries showing their support for Egypt.
“My life goal has been to bridge the gap between the East and the West.”
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova/Maria Alyokhina
Two members of the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot who were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by hatred” after performing a “punk prayer” protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral. A Kremlin amnesty freed them (two months early) in December from the penal colonies where they were serving two-year terms. Tolonnikova has said it was a cynical move ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“As for Vladimir Putin … we still want to do what we said in our last performance for which we spent two years in prison: drive him away.”
Rwandan activist whose Let Us Stay Alive program provides Rwandan women with access to land, seeds and technical assistance through agricultural cooperatives. The beneficiaries of the program include female sex workers, street girls, adolescent mothers and out-of-school girls who are particularly vulnerable to violence, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and poverty. The goal is to empower them by ending their social and economic isolation.
“In my life, I have always wanted to think and do big, and I believe that in serving people, you empower them to serve others as well.”
The former U.S. Army intelligence analyst leaked more than 90,000 secret military documents to Wikileaks. She was sentenced in August to 35 years of confinement after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act. A transgender woman formerly known as Bradley Manning, she has been seeking a presidential pardon, saying she acted “out of a love for my country and sense of duty to others.”
“I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time.”
The founder of computer security training website HackThisSite was sentenced in November to 10 years in prison for hacking the servers of private intelligence firm Stratfor. Emails he obtained from the servers went to WikiLeaks, while customer credit card numbers were used by Anonymous to make $700,000 in fraudulent donations to nonprofits. He has claimed to be a whistleblower working to expose private contractors tied to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
“I targeted law enforcement systems because of the racism and inequality with which the criminal law is enforced.”
Hoodie-wearing Facebook co-founder and CEO launched the social networking phenomenon from Harvard dorm rooms. Now worth $19 billion since taking Facebook public in May 2012, he has donated Facebook shares worth $500 million to education initiatives and shares worth $100 million to public schools in Newark, N.J. His FWD.us group lobbies for immigration reform and technology education.
“I believe that over time people get remembered for what they build, and if you build something great, people don’t care about what someone says about you in a movie … they care about what you build.”
The Swedish entrepreneur launched the Spotify music-streaming service five years ago in Scandinavia, the U.K., France and Spain. In October, it made more than 20 million songs available to 24 million users in 32 territories, and the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri recently valued the company at $5.2 billion.
“This is the single biggest change to how music’s been enjoyed since the record business started.”
Former National Security Agency contractor ripped open the veil of secrecy surrounding the spy agency’s global surveillance activities by leaking internal documents to journalists. A fugitive from U.S. charges of espionage and theft of government property, he now lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, where the government granted him temporary asylum.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions … I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”