The Teen Activist Who Schooled Jeff Flake On How She Plans To Reach The White House

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Throughout her presidential campaign, even (and especially) in her concession speech, Hillary Clinton spoke to young women, encouraging them to go forth and break the proverbial glass ceiling. And despite her presidential loss, Clinton appears to have left a strong mark in this regard. A number of organizations focused on supporting female candidates, including the specifically Democratic, pro-choice group EMILY's List, have reported that there's been a notable increase in women interested in running for office.

Women are taking Clinton's message to heart and are jumping into the political fray, even before they are old enough to run for office or even vote. Case in point: 16-year-old Deja Foxx. The teenage activist from Arizona confronted her senator, Jeff Flake, during a town hall in Mesa, Arizona about his support for legislation allowing states to withhold Title X family planning funds from groups like Planned Parenthood — and the encounter went viral.

Aside from the fact that Title X itself doesn't fund abortions — and so pretending it's an anti-abortion measure is inaccurate and misleading — blocking these funds would disproportionately prevent low-income women and families from receiving affordable cancer screenings, birth control, and STI-tests. Ironically, cutting access to those services could potentially result in more abortions.

Foxx, who relies on Title X for her birth control and healthcare needs, made her feelings about Flake's vote to defund Planned Parenthood very clear during the town hall:

"I just want to state some facts. I’m a young woman, you’re a middle-aged man. I’m a person of color, and you’re white. I come from a background of poverty, and I didn’t always have parents to guide me through life, you come from privilege. I’m wondering, as a Planned Parenthood patient and someone who relies on Title X, who you are clearly not, why is it your right to take away my right?"

Foxx tells Bustle that she hopes her viral exchange will encourage other young women to speak out about politics. "I think for a lot of girls, it can be difficult to get involved because they wait for leadership positions to get handed to them," Foxx says. "But I think you really have to stand up and make leadership positions for yourself."

I talk to younger girls at my school all the time. What I tell them is to embrace their story, embrace their differences and tell it in the most authentic way.

And while her takedown of Flake was her first brush with the national spotlight, Foxx has been doing local activist work well before it. Foxx says that over the past year, she worked on an initiative for comprehensive sex-education in Tucson, requiring schools to provide medically detailed information on STIs, anatomy, birth control, and safe sex.

"It started in December 2015. We would go to school board meetings for months and sit there for hours and tell our stories to convince our school board members to act on reforming our sex ed," Foxx says. "Then, in June of 2016, we got approval to start on a new curriculum. I’ve been working on the revision process ever since. It will be implemented in two years or so."

Foxx says she uses her own political passion as fuel to encourage other young girls to lean into their communities and get involved politically.

"I talk to younger girls at my school all the time. What I tell them is to embrace their story, embrace their differences and tell it in the most authentic way," says Foxx. "We can be really inspirational, work on your empathy and compassion, listen to other stories. The heart of activism is understanding your own experiences and how it fuels your passion."

Foxx is following her own advice. She's got big political goals ahead — and considering the impact she already has had at 16, there's no reason she won't reach them.

"My aspiration is to be president," she says. "That’s my goal, and I hope a lot of women still hold that aspiration and goal."