10 Young Activists using Art to Create Change
Politics and art have always been deeply connected. Art has always been used to challenge the status quo and empower silenced voices. From Banksy’s political street art to David Alfaro Siqeuiros’ murals to the songs of Fela Kuti, there is no shortage of examples of creatives that spread their political message through art. We also must not forget the creativity and contributions of young people, who make up nearly half of the world’s population, who have been at the forefront of rights’ struggles across the globe and who are using art to subvert harmful systems. Here are 10 activists using art to disrupt the status quo, amplify repressed voices, and provoke and inspire change.
1. Madeline Sayet // @MadelineSayet
Madeline Sayet is a Native American director, writer, performer, and educator. As a member of the Mohegan tribe, Sayet reimagines classic plays “to give voice to those who have been silenced.” Sayet stages classic plays with completely Native casts. By bringing these performances to life with an untraditional cast she hopes to show that Native people are more than the typical tokenized characters they often perform. In fact, they can occupy many different roles. Madeline Sayet is a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award for her work as a director, writer, performer, and educator.
| 2.Daniel Arzola // @Arzola_d
Arzola used his love of graphic design to challenge bigotry and inspire LGBTQIA+ people through his artivism. In his home country of Venezuela, Arzola experienced violence and discrimination because of his sexuality. In 2013, Madonna retweeted one of his illustrations and his work went viral shortly after. Unfortunately, following this recognition he began receivingdeath threats and had to flee Venezuela.
3. Sonita Alizadoh // @SonitaAlizadeh
Sonita Alizadoh is an Afghan rapper and activist or ‘raptivist’ who spoke up against forced child marriages, after having been almost forcibly married as a child herself, twice. She was almost married off first when she was 10 years old and again when she was 16 years of age. She reacted to her experience by creating a song and video entitled “Brides for Sale.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sonita explained the potential risks of the video when she said, “My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia. Women must remain silent; this is our tradition.” The video received international attention, and Sonita, continues to perform rap.
Opening up to Local Fundraising
By Mr. Mange Ram Adhana, President of the Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India, and CIVICUS member.
My colleague and I attended a 5 day Local Fundraising training organized by Change the Game Academy, Wilde Ganzen, and local partner SMILE Foundation, on June 4, 2018. The intention was to test the training as pioneers among the CIVICUS Community, to discuss ways to potentially open up these types of learning opportunities further to more CIVICUS members.
This full time training included 20 sessions. It was a really enjoyable and new learning opportunity for all of us. The trainers were very good at conducting the sessions and the facilitators helped to keep the participants continuously energized, throughout the sessions.
The inputs and new skills which we have gained will go a long way in our journey in the field of fundraising.
A Platform for Africanism, Identity and Action
By Rawand Boussama, Afrika Youth Movement
The day I arrived to Ghana, I had the opportunity to network with people from Greece, Sudan and Nigeria. One of the participants, after knowing that I came from Tunisia, asked me whether I identify as African or not since North Africa is always related to the Middle East than to the rest of Africa. I responded, “I am an African". The last day, I talked to him again and told him: “After my stay in Accra, I have truly found my African identity, and now, in all self-confidence, I can tell you that I belong to this continent that I carry in my heart and soul”.
During the four days of the Afrika Youth Movement (AYM) retreat in Ghana, I had the chance to meet people from 14 different countries. I felt in each workshop or panel that I had travelled to a different African country. I was astonished by the quality of the interventions of AYM members. We dug deeper into the issues of African youth and the solutions in order to implement our mission and achieve our vision as a movement aiming for transforming this continent.
The experience was very inspirational and motivating and had an impact on me both personally and professionally. Knowing that it was my first trip out of Tunisia, the experience was so exciting, unique and full of learning and sharing. I have learnt how to be responsible for myself, to articulate my views especially because I was representing my country and the whole of North Africa. It was my duty to give an image about our culture, our situation and our history.
The five days of the AYM retreat and forum were full of new knowledge for me. It was the first time I heard people discussing Pan-Africanism and understanding its history and how we are redefining it. The first day, we focused on team building, ground rules and networking while the second day, we dug deeper into the roadmap, strategy and structure of AYM Hubs across the continent. Through group work and art of hosting methods, we developed a code of conduct, governance structure and working methods of the hubs and national action plans.
European Youth Event 2018: from reflection to action
By Elena Ceban, Center for Intercultural Dialogue
Imagine a space where over 8000 young people would come together to discuss, debate, share their opinions on political, social and cultural issues and have a dialogue with policy makers on how the life of young people can be improved. This space is the European Youth Event, a festival held every two years that celebrates youth participation in one of the most beautiful ways possible. It brings together youth from all over Europe and beyond for a 2-day marathon of discussions, sessions, workshops, musical/theatre/circus performances, rap battles, games and simulations, all with the purpose of bridging the gap between youth and policy-makers, and collecting fresh and innovative ideas on how to improve the life of Europeans in all aspects, whether economic, social and labor-related, environmental protection or political participation. The event is held inside and next to the European Parliament, which means that for 2 days the whole space around the European Parliament turns into a vibrant hub of energy, laughter, good vibes, music and positivity.
This year´s edition of the EYE revolved around the motto: "The plan is to fan this spark into a flame" (Hamilton, My Shot), and covered the following topics: keeping up with the digital revolution, calling for a fair share, working out for a stronger Europe, staying alive in turbulent times and protecting our planet.
It was amazing that so many young people could benefit from the opportunity of sharing the same space with decision-makers and learning more about how their ideas can shape the future of Europe. What was even more incredible was that the programme was shaped by the young people themselves! In a complex procedure that starts way before the event, youth organisations and youth groups are invited to apply with an idea for a workshop or activity that covers one of the topics mentioned above. This feature creates an amazing diversity of methodologies used for the proposed activities, and the participants get the chance to meet and learn about the work of multiple national and international youth organisations from Europe.
Reflections on resource mobilisation realities for youth movements and organisations
By Alex Farrow
Youth movements and organisations are always at the forefront of campaigning for human rights and social change. Whether Brexit in the UK, abortion in Ireland, anti-gun laws in the USA, LGBT rights in Russia, democracy in Armenia, or climate change in Fiji, young people risk their safety – and their lives – in the pursuit of change.
But changing the world costs money. #MarchForOurLives is up against the NRA - an organisation with an annual budget of $250 million. Having the resources is not just about cash in the bank; it is the time and capacity to plan and deliver, having staff and volunteers with the right knowledge and needed skills, and the ability to respond to changes in external environment (something that is getting worse).
Too often this is a luxury that only large, formal NGOs can afford. If you are in a small and less formal youth organisation, global research found, you will face the ‘most acute’ challenges. This is due to a lack of internal expertise and capacity to fundraise, the stringent requirements of some funders and donors, and the restrictions (and outright suppression) from governments on civic space.
So how can we all help?
If you’re an established NGO:
5 CIVICUS members to attend the European Commission’s partnership forum
Some months ago, a call was sent to CIVICUS members inviting them to apply to attend the European Commission’s partnership forum to be held on 25th and 26th June 2018. In order to ensure fruitful discussions during the forum, we needed members who understand cross-sectoral collaboration, the dynamics of professional networks and knowledge-sharing, and members who were able to envision future collective actions as CIVICUS members after the forum.
We received over 160 expressions of interest from 75+ countries and we were very much impressed by the depth of the insights! We are delighted to introduce the five members who will attend the forum as the CIVICUS delegation.
The CIVICUS delegation will be a rich blend of actors from the civil society: members from different regions of the world (including Francophone and Spanish speaking representation), working at different levels from local to regional, and ensuring gender and youth representation. The five members also deal with very different aspects which are key when it comes to multi-stakeholder partnerships, North-South collaborations, tackling key global challenges (e.g around migration and employment) and using diverse channels and means of communication (e.g. arts, media, high-level discussions etc).
Appetite, Buzzwords, and Capacity Gaps
What the Resilient Roots accountability pilot project application process has taught us so far
By Jack Cornforth
The Resilient Roots initiative recently launched two open calls to find pilot projects around the world which will test the hypothesis that organisations that are more accountable and responsive to their roots - namely, their primary constituencies - are more resilient against external threats.
A unique aspect of this initiative is that organisations have so much free reign to lay out what they want to do, over an extended length of time. As a result, this is an exciting opportunity for some really meaningful engagement, but also comes with much responsibility to get things right.
Having personally spent several days reading through all 238 applications from the first call, this has been a truly eye-opening experience. My first impression was, “what have we created!?” The use of unexplained buzzwords, such as “empower”, “innovative”, and, of course, “accountability” itself, was really startling. Is our initiative, with its regular use of this terminology, only adding to this problem?
The organisations that applied are striving to address hugely important issues. However, a significant number did not provide a clear mission statement, so outlining the specific steps they would take to try and increase their primary constituent accountability was even more challenging. This could have been due to an absent theory of change, or challenges with written communication, especially if English isn’t their first language - something which it is of course our responsibility to address.
Solidarity? From mutual support to working as a collective
By Marina Cherbonnier, CIVICUS membership engagement specialist
CIVICUS Board and Staff annual meetings were held recently. It was a crucial moment to re-assert CIVICUS as an alliance. One of the key achievements from the meetings was the adoption of the new membership policy. A big change it brings is that voting membership isn’t closely tied to one’s ability to contribute financially anymore. Indeed, membership fees will be voluntary for any organisation whose annual income is less than 80 000 USD. We feel this best reflects the true principle of inclusion and “people power” that is at the heart of CIVICUS.
What being a member-based organisation means
It was refreshing to hear the CIVICUS board - all elected by CIVICUS voting members - re-emphasize the importance of listening to what all members want and need. Annual surveys and post-event surveys were recently revisited towards this purpose.
They particularly raised the question of how, as members themselves, do they make sure that they represent members and - through the Board’s representation - ensure that CIVICUS is a member-based organization.
Another point raised was how we remain accountable to our primary constituents and show impact by defining the best metrics to assess the solidarity we aim to build through the alliance. Some thorough work with the Impact and Accountability cluster on monitoring, evaluating, learning and adapting the work from there, is being done to respond to this.
Showing how a global alliance makes a difference
How to better show the added value of being part of the CIVICUS Alliance was also discussed. Several board and staff members as well as members of the community emphasize that there is an incredible power in being part of a global network: by joining the alliance you enable yourself to tackle issues collectively.
A young rural woman activist at CSW62
By Nadia Sanchez, She Is Foundation. Colombia, Member of CIVICUS Youth Working Group
My experience at CSW62 as a panelist in the event "Shrinking space for the feminist movement"
The 62nd Commission on the Status of Women - CSW62 was an experience that facilitated knowledge generation and transfer amongst women from more than 120 countries who met and shared their experiences, but also decided on the steps to take forward together. In the session on "Shrinking space for the feminist movement" organized by CIVICUS in collaboration with other civil society organizations, I first thought it would only be about discussing the theme of rural Women and economic empowerment, but the biggest outcome was connecting as activists and leaders to raise our voices, finding out that everything we shared had a strong connection, sharing around the work of women, rural women, peace and our own feeling as activists.
Main outcomes of attending CSW62
Sharing our experiences with the UN allowed us to empower ourselves and generate valuable connections. But above all, it enables us to act together.
CSW62 was also an opportunity to revive hope that we are doing the job well and that the time is now to continue dignifying our rights.
I particularly connected and developed synergies with the delegation of my country, Colombia, who invited me to be in their sessions and to actively participate in a topic as important as peace.
SHE IS, the organisation I founded, works with victims of the armed conflict, communities in situations of vulnerability and extreme poverty. It has not been an easy process, we have moved from indifference to our work to building a sustainable network that transforms lives.
Now imagine what it has been like to share our work in this iconic venue, to raise our voice and being given the opportunity to exchange knowledge for a common good, which perhaps could be called a 'solidarity economy of knowledge'.
Agenda 2063: Youth taking charge of Africa's transformation
By Esther Kariuki
Every active citizen would by now have heard of "Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" or, simply, the SDGs. Every active African citizen would also have heard of Agenda 2063. The SDGs are a group of 17 global goals addressing social and economic development issues set by the United Nations. The goals apply to the world in its entirety and they do not distinguish between nations, whether ‘developed’ or ‘developing’. Agenda 2063, which is specific to African nations, is a strategic framework for development of the African continent with the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena”. Both are praiseworthy documents full of hope, but we are all aware that the biggest hindrance to the success of a development agenda lies in implementation. How are the SDGs and their respective targets going to be implemented by 2030? Is Agenda 2063 being executed across the entire African continent? The most important question for me, one that is rooted in citizen participation, leadership and accountability is, what is the role of African Youth in the implementation of both the SDGs and Agenda 2063?
I recently spent close to a week deliberating on this last question in the company of brilliant young minds from various countries within and outside Africa. This platform was provided during the second Afrika Youth Movement (AYM) Empowerment Forum that convened in Accra, Ghana, from 18-22 April 2018 to which, as a member of the movement, I was invited. AYM is a pan-African, action-oriented, youth-led movement that strives for the participation, development and leadership of African youth to transform Africa and achieve their rights to peace, equality and social justice. AYM further adds to its uniqueness of being the largest youth led movement with its promotion of the values that bind the African continent; ubuntu, self-determination, integrity and accountability in each of its endeavours. Did the forum provide an answer to the question I raised above? There is rarely ever one solution to a puzzle and the problem of development in Africa is surely a puzzle. My sole conclusion, however, is that our role as African youth lies in or begins with grassroots implementation. This position is in line with AYM as a focal point of empowerment of young people already working or those keen on working in their communities.
“Walk in My Shoes”: Change starts with us!
By Patrick Newton Bondo
Every day we are inspired by the stories our girls, youth, women and young families share with us. The Outreach Social Care Project team’s job is to fuel their passions by giving them the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to turn their inspirational stories into real world actions that change lives forever. The Outreach Social Care Project wants a world where social and environmental development justice is assured and all people are able to live in a prosperous, healthy and peaceful environment, access to basic rights.
As a grassroots non-profit organisation, Outreach Social Care Project was pleased to have the opportunity to attend the launch of the former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s foundation at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on United Nations Wold Social Justice Day under the theme “Walk in My Shoes”. The Thuli Madonsela Foundation partnered with Khulisa Social Solutions to host the event to empower the most disadvantaged and underprivileged communities.
Social justice is a fundamental principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We advocate for the principles of social justice, promote gender equality and the rights of children, girls, youth, men, women and the LGBTIQ community. We advance social justice by removing barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability in South Africa and around the world. Working together we can make the world a better place for all.
This event was an eye opener for where our resources are strongly needed and how we can continue being a light to many of our beneficiaries living in the most disadvantaged and underprivileged communities.
A quest to find our generation’s mission
Based in Johannesburg since 2002, CIVICUS: World Alliance is commemorating Youth Day in South Africa by initiating a conversation to find this generation of young people’s mission and empower youth to organise, mobilise and take action throughout the world to better our communities. Forty-one years after the Soweto youth uprising that took place on 16 June, a group of creative and engaged members from the CIVICUS Youth Working Group took to the street of Johannesburg in a quest to find their generation’s mission. They recorded the diverse voices of young people living in Johannesburg in order to achieve this goal.
Gender and inclusion in civic space
Just after International Women’s Day this year, Amal Clooney, accomplished international human rights lawyer, addressed the UN. She and survivor-advocate Nadia Murad are calling for justice and accountability for the so-called Islamic State’s acts of genocide against the Ezidi community of Iraq. Time magazine was more interested in focusing on the lawyer’s baby bump.
Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.
It’s just one more in an endless string of examples demonstrating what a very long way we still have to go. And that's the case whether we look at the civil society sector, or politics, or the legal profession, or the media, or just about any sector or field.
A Day Without CIVICUS Women
About 66% of CIVICUS’ staff are women. And while it’s impossible to say what percentage of the whole CIVICUS Alliance’s membership is composed of women, we can safely guess that in a sector dominated by women, there are many member organisations that have more women than men on staff.
Thus, a day without women would be an impossible day for CIVICUS; work at the Secretariat, and quite possibly throughout much of the Alliance’s more than 1,200 member organisations, might just grind to a complete halt if all women workers went on strike.
As Joanna Maycock, head of the European Women’s Lobby in Brussels, clearly demonstrates in Breaking the Glass Pyramid, there is a “failure of our own sphere, civil society, to address gender inequality in our leadership.” We must struggle to consciously address the conditioning and messages we were raised with and that are constantly reinforced every day. So of course, even in progressive civil society spaces, we are frequently replicating the very same kinds of hierarchies internally that we see all the time externally in the broader world.
A Day Without Women Minorities
After Trump took office and the world was reeling in shock, it was women* who organized a worldwide women’s march to come together in solidarity. We know that through hate propaganda, women are often the most targeted, even through an intersectional lens of race, identity, migration status, and other factors that deepen discrimination and exclusion.
It is women who are pushing back against far right propaganda and division, and that is why a day without women will hopefully demonstrate the power of women within the struggle to advance fundamental rights for everyone.
We must ensure women of colour lead these movements as women’s campaigns rooted in the Global North often fail to understand or acknowledge the particular challenges that women of colour face. I was able to take part in the Dutch women’s march this year, and although it felt empowering to be part of something bigger, as a woman of colour I still felt alone. How we campaign together must be inclusive of all the issues that we face.
A Day Without a Woman in the USA
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day seems to match the current sentiment around much of the globe. A day without a woman… What would that mean for us?
In equal measure, Hillary Clinton’s loss and the success of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election have reminded many of us what it means to be a woman in the workforce here in the United States, at every level. In the nonprofit sector, the pay differential between male and female leaders executives continues to increase, with women earning anywhere between 21 and 47 percent less than their male counterparts. All along the corporate ladder, women are underrepresented: 45% of posts are occupied by women at the entry level and this figure drops to 37% at management, 32% at senior management, 27% at vice presidential, and 23% at senior vice president levels with only 17% of C-suite positions going to women.
So what would it look like then, if all women stopped working?
A Day Without a Woman in Tunisia
Before the Tunisian Revolution, International Women’s Day centered around a major state-sponsored festival in which artists and government officials celebrated the progressive Code of Personal Status (CPS) promulgated in 1957 under President Habib Bourguiba. However, Tunisian women have been facing the most “sophisticated inequalities” since our independence.
According to UNESCO’s report on women in the labour force in 2009, only 38 percent of adult women are employed compared to 51 percent of men and nearly half are subject to various kinds of gender-based violence, including physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse. In this restrictive civic space, I wondered if our policymakers were even aware of these numbers or do they think only of using the progressive gender legislation to portray themselves as pro-western, secular modernists despite the implementation falling short?
A Day Without a Woman in South Africa
Wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo – When you strike a woman, you strike a rock – was the battle cry of women who marched to the Union Buildings in South Africa in 1956, and it has echoed through the ages and continues to ring true today. For hundreds of years, as birth givers, nurturers, leaders of industry and pillars of their communities from Cape Town to Cairo, African women have fought for their place in society; fought the label of “the weaker sex”, seeking to be seen as equal in strength, determination and value in their various forms of womanhood, and as people whose voices should not and cannot be muted. Today, we challenge ourselves here at CIVICUS to continue to amplify the voices of women all over the world.