Mara and Alexandra
Friends Mara and Alexandra, both 14, are active members of their Children’s Council, championing Child Rights and Participation. Although neighbours in rural Romania, these two Changemakers’ advocacy reaches around the globe, representing their peers in different working groups involving local, national and international authorities. Last year, Mara and Alex helped develop five solutions addressing the most urgent needs children face in rural areas.
Q&A with Alex and Mara
lightly edited and condensed for clarity
What is your favourite food to eat?
Alex: My favourite food is Chinese soup.
Mara: My favourite food is pea stew. Moments before I was born, my mom was peeling pea beans, which I think explains it.
What is your favourite thing to do for fun?
Alex: For fun I like painting, reading or riding horses.
Mara: In my free time, I like reading, drawing and writing. But every week or so I get a new hobby and it’s hard to keep track of them!
Who is your favourite actor/singer/dancer/influencer?
Alex: My favourite singer and influencer is Olivia Addams because she is very talented and the community she has created is based on love and support and she had a campaign to stop bullying in the past.
Mara: My favourite influencer is Blair Imani. She’s an educator and centres her work around human rights, using social media platforms to spread information about issues such as the patriarchy, islamophobia, prejudices against our own kind. She’s not the influencer who wants you to trust them on everything, but the one who encourages you to do your own research and most importantly listen to the voices of the ones surrounding you speaking about their problems.
What is your favourite memory from your childhood?
Alex: I remember when I first rode a horse. That happened when I was 8 years old I think, and I also remember that I was very happy and excited.
Mara: Really, the first thing I can remember happened when I was around 3 years old. I was on the kindergarten playground with my bigger sister, and we climbed onto the slide. The kids told us that we can’t go down, because we are on a rocket that’s about to take off. I liked this idea much better, and I’m pretty sure I could see a star during the ride.
What would you tell a future Changemaker?
Alex & Mara: When something is really important to you, and it is affecting your life or others, fight to change that and you will succeed.
What would you say to yourself 5 years ago?
Alex: I would tell my past self to continue fighting and having hope that it will be ok.
Mara: There will be hard times, but there will be people there for you. And you will make friends - harder, but it’ll be worth it.
What is the issue you advocate on and what made you decide to take on this issue?
Alex & Mara: An issue we advocate on is the lack of information about children's rights and their implementation; it's a problem that directly affects us and other children, a problem that's present in schools, homes, and in world governments.
Why is ending violence against children and the issue you advocate on so important to you?
Alex & Mara: They're important to us because children are suffering, and without a change, the future won't look better than today's world. No child should have to endure violence and live in a hostile environment. They should receive all the support and love there is to give so that they can grow and develop into the adults they want to be.
What difference would you like leaders to make to create real change on the issue you advocate on?
Alex & Mara: Including children in decision processes. By directly asking the children, leaders will be able to see the exact reality the people are confronted with and hear solutions from the ones that have lived and been affected most.
What would you say to leaders if you had the chance to talk to them directly?
Alex & Mara: Think of yourself when you were a child and listen to that young inner voice.
What is something you hope to accomplish in 1, 5, 10 years?
Alex: In my personal life, I want to get into the art high school and then become a psychologist. In my advocacy work, I want to make the world a better and a safer place for children.
Mara: Next year, I want to get into the high school I want and study mathematics-informatics. As per my advocacy plan, I want to be as involved as I can be in one of the biggest projects I am part of: Young Demo. In five years, I’ll be finishing high school which is very hard to picture at the moment. The one thing I aspire to by that time is knowing what I want to do next - or at least have a vague idea. I’d also hope to see all different parts of the world. In my advocacy work, I wish to have made an impact on environmental issues - the one thing that always startled me and made me more involved in the world’s problems. Ten years is a challenge to imagine, so I’ll stick to what I know for sure, the fact that I’ll adopt as many cats as I can. I want to get to know myself better and make peace with some things that have always been in my life but I’ve denied them. In my advocacy life, I wish to share everything I've learnt with the world.
What is the most encouraging thing that has happened during your work with this issue?
Alex: The most encouraging thing that has happened during my work with this issue is when us, the council, were welcomed to the government to spend some days in there and talk to the adults directly about our problems.
Mara: Finding people who support and share your views - without them, all my hope would be lost.
What five words would you use to describe why the issue you work on is so important to you?
Alex: Because I'm also a child.
Mara: Children deserve a better world.
What is the funniest thing that has happened during your advocacy work?
Alex: In a summer school with World Vision Romania, when all the children from the Consultative Council of Children got together and watched a horror movie, and the funny part is when we hugged each other because we got scared.
Mara: Not the funniest, but one of my most exciting experiences: I got to talk at an event alongside the executive director of World Vision Romania. Between work, we got a chance to get to know each other. We shared our interests and hobbies and we laughed.
What challenges have you encountered in your advocacy work?
Alex & Mara: The adults that ignored our work or our problems and don't help us when we need that the most.
Do you advocate alongside other children and young people, and how do they inspire you?
Alex & Mara: We are part of the Consultative Council of Children, World Vision Romania, where we work alongside approximately 20 other young people. Seeing that we have similar views on the world and that we are working towards the same goals gives us hope. They inspire us with their courage to speak about the things they care about and their dedication in solving those problems. We always helped and encouraged one another.
If you could pick one personal memory or achievement around ending violence against children, what would it be?
Alex & Mara: When we were both confronted with verbal harassment and violent threats from classmates, we reached out for help, and we got it!