London (CNN)Anna Taylor tapped on her smartphone from the sidelines of a climate change protest on a sunny February afternoon in east London. Bundled in a green waterproof jacket, she tried to catch up with scores of WhatsApp messages from working groups seeking her direction on an upcoming strike.
How teenage girls defied skeptics to build a new global climate movement
A thick smudge of gold glitter on her right cheek belied the fact that Taylor, 17, has taken a leading role in organizing a protest that is expected to see hundreds of students walk out of class across the UK on Friday.
The school walkout, called Youth Strike 4 Climate, is planned for more than 40 British towns and cities. Its aim, Taylor said, is to raise awareness of the threats of climate change. "It has felt like a full-time job on top of school work," she said of balancing final year exam revision with activism. "I don't have time to see my friends as much anymore ... [nor] am I getting much sleep."
Taylor and co-organizer Vivien "Ivi" Hohmann are almost certain to get a detention for protesting on Friday, and not everyone sees altruism behind their actions. "I had an interview a couple of weeks ago and the journalist kept saying: 'you are just playing truant -- that is what you are really doing,'" Taylor told CNN.
On Sunday, the British tabloid Daily Mail questioned whether the walkout was student-run, suggesting that it had "been hijacked by hardline climate groups and career activists."
This was Taylor's first taste of the skepticism that has met a growing ecosystem of student-led climate strikes, which are crisscrossing Europe and Australia, many of which are being conceived, organized and executed by teenage girls.
And Taylor said Friday's event is only a warmup for a worldwide student strike on March 15.
In Australia, around 15,000 students took to the streets in November after Harriet O'Shea Carre and Milou Albrecht, both 14, wrote a letter calling for greater action on climate change.
In Belgium, a student-led climate march, started by schoolgirl Anuna De Wever and her best friend Kyra Gantois, saw more than 10,000 people hit the streets across the country during its fifth iteration last Thursday. Their January 24 march saw a turnout of 35,000, Belgian police said.