Hyper-accomplished teenagers are often quite showy, one reason that June Eric-Udorie's humble attitude toward her own success is so charming.
"I'm real young. I know some stuff, but there's a lot for me to learn,” Eric-Udorie says. "I'm only beginning to understand what it's like to move as a young black woman in the world today [and so] I'm not even sure I know what my path is. I guess I'm just doing the little I can to make the world a more equal place."
A writer and an activist for girls' and women's rights, the 18-year-old Eric-Udorie says that her background very much informed her drive to effect change both on the page and through activism. Born in Dublin to Nigerian parents and subsequently brought up in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, she heard stories about her grandmother's decision to protect her mother from the practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM.
"I didn't know what it was then, but when I went on Google and found out about the practice, I was horrified that it was still occurring today," she says. "I really felt like if I kept quiet, then I was complicit in this act, and I felt compelled to act and do something."
Now, at just 18, she's written about this issue and other gender rights-related topics for major publications including the Guardian, New Statesman, Fusion, and others, and she is editing an anthology of essays due to be published in the spring. (Right now she's an editorial trainee at Penguin Random House U.K.) She's received no shortage of awards in recognition of her writing work, including the BBC's 100 Women list in 2016—which recognizes inspirational and influential women across the world—and the 2015 shortlist for Young Commentariat of the Year, a prestigious U.K. honor given by the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
While Eric-Udorie has wowed the publishing world, where many people twice her age struggle to make headway, she's also been working on issues vital to her age group. She says she's most proud of her activism around the U.K. government's proposal to alter the politics syllabus for A-Levels, the secondary-school-leaving qualification in the U.K.
"The government was going to not only wipe women completely from the curriculum, but they were taking off feminism too. I was really angry about the proposed changes, and I felt powerless too. But I took a leap and led [a campaign]," she says. "With 50,000 signatures and a lot of lobbying, the government retracted its proposed changes."
Explore the complete list of this year's 30 top thinkers under 30 here. (Lead 3-D Illustration: Comrade)