MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) is an order of the British Empire award. It is granted as part of the Queen’s birthday. It is the third-highest ranking of the British Empire award, offered to people who have made a positive impact. Amika George, a 21-year-old Malayali from Edgware in northwest London is the youngest recipient in the Queen’s MBE list. She championed free period products for students who couldn’t attend schools because of the lack of them.
At the age of 17, Amika started a campaign against period poverty, called #FreePeriods. She found out that many students in the UK did not attend schools because they couldn’t afford period products. Therefore, she started a petition and approached educational institutions and ministers to raise funds and provide free period products to students. Ambika wanted to provide equal access to education for all children, irrespective of their sex.
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Through her legal campaign, Amika George was able to push the Government to provide funding for free period products in schools in England. In January 2020, the Governments in Scotland and Wales The Department for Education soon followed suit.
Free Periods is now a not for profit organisation. It fights for the rights of people who menstruate so that no one misses out on their education. Apart from that, the NGO also creates awareness about the destigmatisation of menstruation, fighting against the taboo associated with it.
“It wasn’t an easy one for me with the Honours system’s association to the (British) Empire and our Colonial past. It’s really important for me to show that young people have power in our voices, much more than we realise…We have often been overlooked in political spaces, and the MBE shows that we are slowly being recognised as real change-makers who can influence government. That change doesn’t have to be done from within the walls of Westminster, or the White House, or the Indian Parliament. Anyone can orchestrate change. I would like young people of colour to see that we are being recognised and that if we are willing to jump from a place of safety and rise up, we can create something better.”
Amika George is also the author of the book ‘Make it Happen‘, which talks about pressing issues in today’s times and how the youth can come together to make a difference. Malala Yousafzai loved reading Amika’s book, and this is what she had to say – “Make It Happen reminds us that people of any age can create change in their communities. From finding allies to setting goals, everyone who wants to contribute to a better future can learn from Amika’s book.“
The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2021 is the most ethnically diverse list to date. Of the 1,129 awardees, 50 per cent are women and 15 per cent are of an ethnic minority.