Henar Maíllo may only be 16 years old, but she firmly believes in her power to change the world. So far, she has spoken on a UN panel, created a successful youth club, participated in numerous international initiatives, and been awarded two scholarships. However, Henar’s journey hasn’t been without its obstacles. When she was in the sixth grade, she was diagnosed with Henoch-Schönlein purpura, a rare inflammatory disease that forced her to miss six months of school. Later, in 2017, she moved with her family to Boston, where her father was working on a year-long project. At first, the move to the US was overwhelming, because Henar hardly knew any English and struggled to hold a conversation with her classmates. By the time she returned to Spain, she was practically bilingual.
It was in Boston that Henar learned more about the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the impact that young people can have on the world. She joined her school’s Model UN, and met people from different cultures and countries. This allowed Henar to gain a more global perspective on the world’s most pressing issues. Since she has returned to Spain, Henar has joined the Royal Academy of Science International Trust’s Girls in Science 4 SDGs International Platform, where she works with girls from all over the globe on projects to advance the SDGs. As part of this, she is helping to run the Ilham Competition (‘Ilham’ is an Arabic and Turkish word for ‘inspiration’), which challenges students from all over the world to find innovative ways to protect our oceans. To encourage her peers to join her in building a better tomorrow, Henar co-created Girl Up Madrid, part of the UN Foundation’s efforts to promote girls’ education.
Henar dreams of one day working for the UN or one of the EU institutions, and is currently studying for an International Baccalaureate on a full scholarship. She is also enrolled in Dual Diploma, a complementary academic programme to obtain a US high school diploma. In November 2020, she was accepted to Fulbright’s programme in Spain, an honours group for university-bound students. And this year, she co-wrote a book, February 11, on the topic of oceans in relation to SDG 14 and the UN’s decade for Oceans.
Henar’s overarching belief is that education is the engine for change and equality, and what pushes people to be their best. Unfortunately, money is often a barrier to learning. That is why Henar would use her prize money to create a fund within Girl Up Madrid for students most in need. The rest would go towards funding her own education, which Henar hopes to continue abroad.