Wilmington teens launch movement to spread awareness on women’s rights in Iran

Isabella Cox and William Gardner put together bracelets they plan to hand out to people who...
Isabella Cox and William Gardner put together bracelets they plan to hand out to people who share their posts on social media. They are trying to spread awareness on violence against women in Iran on Instagram.(WECT)
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:06 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Two local teens are raising awareness for women’s rights across the world from their homes in Wilmington. They’re doing that through connecting with people on social media and handing out bracelets to anyone who helps.

William Gardner and Isabella Cox are teens at Cape Fear Academy and Hoggard High School. They’re using Instagram to spread awareness among their peers about violence against women and girls in Iran.

“My mom is Iranian, so I feel like I should do something and feel like I’m helping, and feel like I’m a snowflake in the avalanche almost,” Gardner said. “As though I had a small part in changing the regime and improving rights for everyone in Iran, especially women.”

That’s why they started Women Life Freedom ILM, based on the global Women Life Freedom movement.

The movement took life after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last September when she was arrested and beaten in Iran for wearing a hijab improperly.

The Iranian government controls internet access in the country and has shut down internet access in response to protests in the past. When protests again broke out after Amini’s death, activists were able to stay connected to the internet in part because of alternate forms of internet like Elon Musk’s Starlink.

But that’s why Gardner says it’s so important to spread awareness about the violence—because of the resources available to the Wilmington teens that aren’t so easily accessed on the other side of the world.

“We have to be thankful for the resources that we have and amplify their voices,” Gardner said. “We don’t have any internet limitations over here so we might as well use it for good causes.”

Gardner and his mother, who fled Iran when she was a child, came up with the idea to bring more awareness to the issue at a local level and asked Cox to join in. From there, the teens connected with clubs at their school like the National Honor Society to get more of their peers involved.

“Women’s rights have always been close to my heart,” Cox said. “It’s important to me and the women in Iran that we spread their message and be their voices when they are being kept quiet by the Islamic regime.”

Now, they’re working to spread their message by handing out free, handmade bracelets to anyone who shares three posts from their Instagram account @WomenLifeFreedomILM.

On Feb. 10, teens from both their schools will gather at Gardner’s home to help make bracelets to give out to people who post on their Instagram stories and spread awareness about the ongoing gender-based violence in Iran.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” Cox said. “Everyone deserves their basic rights, and they’re being denied right now, so we need to stand up for them. If we’re in a position that we can, we should stand up and share that message.”

You can learn more about Women Life Freedom on their Instagram and their website.