Molly Solomons, 26, social activist
My name is Molly. I have a full-time job working for a homeless charity, I pay my taxes, I have a brother with autism and come from a single-parent family. I have been involved in organising protests for the past year against the unnecessary cuts that are being enforced by the coalition. UK Uncut takes direct action against the cuts. Our protests are based around creativity, civil disobedience and realistic alternatives to the cuts such as clamping down on tax avoidance by big businesses and stopping subsidies to the banking sector that caused this crisis. Our movement is non-hierarchal, as we believe that the current model of western leadership is corrupt, undemocratic, patriarchal and will cause global unrest to continue until it changes. We believe Vodafone has dodged £6 billion in tax. My mum lost her job because of the cuts. This is not fair, plain and simple, and that is why I organise protests to go into Vodafone shops and demand they pay their tax – to have my voice heard, feel a part of the movement opposed to these cuts and feel an enormous sense of empowerment as I stand up for a fairer society, for my family and for our futures.
Yevgenia Chirikova, 37, environmental activist
Five years ago I was walking in the Khimki forest, in Moscow’s green belt, when I saw red markings on the trees. The forest was going to be chopped down to make way for a toll highway from Moscow to St Petersburg. I had not been involved in politics – I run a small business with my husband – but I felt I had to stop this. I believe the road does not need to go through the forest, and that the contract is corrupt. We managed to get the bulldozers stopped, but since Putin’s ‘re-election’, things have got much worse. The bulldozers have now returned to work. An environmental activist who was arrested for protesting against development of the Black Sea coastline now faces five years in jail. Foreign governments should not be congratulating Putin. They should pass laws like the Bill before the US Senate in honour of Sergei Magnitsky – the lawyer who died in jail after exposing a $230 million tax scam involving senior tax and interior ministry officials – to ban corrupt Russians from entering the country or using US banks. We cannot change anything at the top, but we can start from the bottom, by getting honest people elected to local councils.
Atiaf Alwazir, 32, political activist
I knew early on that the fight for freedom came with a heavy price. My grandfather was executed for his participation in the failed revolution of 1948 calling for the rule of law through the creation of a constitution. My father and uncles were imprisoned at a young age and have been in exile for years from Yemen while continuing their political activities.Given my family history, it was inevitable that I would pursue such a path. Anyone who sees the mass corruption, poverty, gross inequality, and injustice in Yemen would do the same.Since the beginning of the revolution in January 2011, I have been deeply involved in calls for change through various means. First, by participating in the peaceful movement as a citizen journalist/blogger where I am documenting and analysing the current situation in my blog and contributing to media outlets. Second, I am involved in the local Support Yemen video advocacy campaign to promote social justice. Finally, my colleagues and I are working to start a library in the Old City of Sana’a as a space for young people to expand their knowledge, enjoy cultural activities, and gain vocational skills.