Amika George, the founder of Free periods, breaking barriers with her organisation, is the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Birthday Honours because of her contribution as an activist in the United Kingdom (UK). When the news broke out, it was the cause of celebration for young women across the globe, especially for young women with Indian roots since Amika is one among them.
At the age of 17 years, Amika started Free Periods in April 2017. She started the organisation aiming at helping girls who abstain from going to school numerous days each month due to lack of access to menstrual hygiene products.
Amika also led a protest on Downing Street in London with thousands of supporters and over 2.7 lakh signatures on a petition on Change.org, in demand of free period products for all students who avail free school meals to the UK government.
However, Amika recently tweeted that she found out she was nominated to receive the Queen’s birthday honours. Still, she was “reluctant” to accept the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
According to her tweet on June 12, “Being offered an MBE was surreal. I felt so lucky to represent young people and everyone who has supported @free_periods, but the associations with empire made me reluctant.”
In an article for British Vogue, she further shared how reading about Britain’s colonial history and the aftermath of the partition and the Indian freedom movement put her uncomforted with the idea of accepting the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Reviewing “racist exploitation, economical extraction and a long consistent legacy of global division,” Amika stated how the “empire” could be the most “shameful word” that she would permanently associate with her identity.
However, she also realised the impact of her acceptance of the Queen’s honours could have soon after. “I’m accepting this MBE on behalf of every single person who supported, signed, protested and donated to our campaign,” Amika wrote in the first-person account for Vogue. “I, however, don’t see it as a reward for my personal achievements; it’s a hint for our generation’s irrepressible energy and hunger for transformative change…So, probably, as a brown person, I don’t have the luxury of turning down this MBE.”
“The opportunity to represent my community and my family to draw attention towards the lack of colonial history in our education system and point out the stark underrepresentation of young people in political spheres is one I cannot let slip by.”
Out of the total 1,129 people in the honours list, 23%, ie. 262 people, have been recommended for their Covid-19 related service. Another 62% have been recognised for community work. 9% of those honoured had a disability, 17.3% were from a lower socio-economic background and 5% identified as LGBT.