Global Citizen’s Emerging Creatives Program provides a platform for emerging creatives in the Global South that are highlighting the need for open civic space worldwide. Through their art, they call for change, shine a light on social injustices, and advocate for the advancement of the Global Goals.
This program was made possible thanks to funding from the Ford Foundation.
AUGUST 2023 SPOTLIGHT
“It’s so important for me not only as a musician, but as a climate activist to give the mic, find the voices, and to listen to what people have to say and learn how we can amplify those voices — which I try to do through music … Oftentimes marginalized communities are denied the opportunities to pursue art like music because they are fighting for other issues, such as survival, so it is really important to me to have a really intersectional approach.” — Loïca
29-year-old Chilean-born singer-songwriter and climate activist, Angela Valenzuela says music became a tool for her activism because of its ability to touch on all the issues that matter to her.
Performing under the name Loïca, Valenzuela believes that music can create hope and togetherness — themes she thinks are important in the fight to defend the planet.
“Songwriting [is] a way to communicate to the very heart of the issue, which is empathy and people coming together. This challenges the notion that everything is lost, and that it is easier to imagine catastrophe rather than how we can reframe and rethink our systems,” Valenzuela told Global Citizen.
Through her work as both a climate activist and artist, Valenzuela has been involved in work that uses music and art to tell the story of the impact of the climate crisis. One such project was the 2022 Canto del Agua songwriting project in Chile, for which she was project lead and artistic director.
In early 2023, Chile experienced what was termed a “mega drought” by the World Meteorological Organization, following a decade of dry weather which led to the deadliest wildfires in the country’s history. The project, which was made in collaboration with the Roots Project at Greenpeace, Sibelius Academy, and Mujeres MODATIMA (a feminist movement fighting for water rights in Chile), sought to tell the story of the impact that drought and the privatization of water have had on Chile.
The involvement of communities affected by climate change in her work and in solutions against the crisis is important for Loïca as intersectionality is a crucial part of her politics.
“The climate justice fight is an intersectional issue and you cannot look at it with a single lens. The crisis affects the LGBTQ+ community, people living in the Global South, vulnerable communities living in the Global North,” she explained. “The most holistic way to understand the climate crisis is to understand that as it happens, the most vulnerable will be the most affected.”
The intersectionality of poverty, inequality, and the climate crisis is evident in Chile where in May 2023 the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, warned that the climate crisis has led to various human rights violations, “including the fundamental right to live in a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.”
In addition to issues of poverty, loss, and damages as a result of the climate crisis, Chile has challenges with a civic space that is considered narrowed, making the work of activists like Valenzuela both challenging and important.
It is for this reason that spotlighting marginalized voices is a fundamental part of her work.
Valenzuela believes activists and creatives like herself need to collaborate more — see the connection between one another’s struggles and work together to shape a better future.
JULY 2023 SPOTLIGHT
“My hope is to amplify the muffled voices in the margins. People on the receiving end of climate injustices, sordid poverty, mental health illness, family breakdown, loss, and violence. As I write their stories, I hope they will be seen and heard. I hope to celebrate the unsung heroes in the periphery of society, for the resilience and autonomy they still exude, even when their reality seems bleak.” - Ruth Mutana
Ruth Mutana is a creative writer living in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, who uses creative writing to share stories of the disastrous impact of poverty and inequality on the most vulnerable communities. The 24-year-old writer and poet says that while she is able to work across different formats, she believes her strength lies in short-story writing and poetry.
“I love how short stories give room for plenty of detail and context,” she says. “The emotional aspect of poetry is also priceless, it allows me to express a wide array of emotions in a few lines.”
Mutana describes herself as being calm and reserved.
“'I’m usually somewhere in the crowd, hardly the center of attention. But I am extremely observant and sensitive to the cues I get from my surroundings. So it's not surprising that most of my writings are inspired by observations,” she explains.
It is this great ability to quietly observe that allows Mutana to tackle complex issues with significant clarity.
Mutana began writing in high school as a way to deal with her own emotional challenges. She shares that her first poem was written out of the need to see something positive from herself after a difficult time.
Writing has positively impacted her life, and as a result of her passion, she was invited to participate in the Caravan of Hope — which Mutana considers to have been a life-changing opportunity.
“I traveled to climate disaster-affected areas in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi. Through seeing the loss and damage caused by Cyclone Idai with my own eyes and listening to the stories of affected communities, I felt profound commitment rise up [in] my chest,” she says. “I decided to share everything I saw and heard with the world. It is during this time that the activist in me was born. My work focuses on real issues we deal with everyday. These include the untold suffering due to climate change, mental health battles, financial crisis, faith, hope, and love.”
Mutana chooses to focus on these issues in her writing because they are real-life and important issues, and because she hopes “to create an authentic space where we embrace our struggles and work through them to attain the peace and growth we seek.”
Zimbabwe has numerous challenges, which include growing poverty and inequality, as well as a civic space that is considered repressed. This has affected media freedom and the ability of activists and civic space organizations to do their work. However, despite these challenges, Mutana says she is able to keep doing her work.
“Honestly, I'm somehow cautious. I haven't felt driven to write on touchy subjects. Maybe it's a subconscious fear of getting into trouble for it. But my writing journey might have surprises in store, strong enough to push me out of my comfort zone one day. I [also] haven't felt restricted from expressing myself,” she says.
One of the challenges Mutana faces in her writing is financial constraints as a result of the editorial and publishing costs required to put her work out at pace to match her prolific output.
“But all hope is not lost,” she says. “Managing my expectations and appreciating the small wins has been comforting. Publishing one book at a time is not bad at all.”
Young creatives and writers like Mutana are crucial for telling the stories of vulnerable communities such as the rural poor in Zimbabwe, whose experiences are often missing from discussions around the climate emergency and the need to end extreme poverty.
Read Mutana’s short story, Life in the Camp, here.
JUNE 2023 SPOTLIGHT
“I believe in the principle of leaving no one behind. Through my writings and projects, I am inspiring minds from marginalized regions across Africa, and the world, to feel more empowered to create and demand for real solutions to the climate crisis.” — Oluwaseyi Moejoh
The climate crisis is one of the heaviest burdens the West has put on Africa’s back, leaving her to fend for herself against a beast that dictates whether people can eat or even breathe. Thankfully, the continent has strong warriors, like Oluwaseyi Moejoh, a writer and the only African contributing editor for youth-led climate publication OH-Wake Magazine.
Civic space is considered repressed in Moejoh’s home country of Nigeria, where media freedom in particular is under constant threat. Journalists face harassment and arrest while attempting to simply do their jobs. Still, with the media being a powerful tool for young activists, Moejoh worked with The Lonely Whale Foundation to launch the African chapter of OH-Wake in Nigeria this year — a move that empowers young activists to find their voice while also expanding freedom of expression in her home country.
“Through writing, I tell stories about hidden realities, amplify voices of the unheard, and enlighten minds about the potential they have within them to change the narrative,” Moejoh tells Global Citizen. “Through my words, I aim to uncover profound perspectives, igniting a collective consciousness that recognizes the urgency of our environmental challenges and highlights the antidote called ACTION.”
Moejoh believes in the importance of using her voice and shares stories from the youth perspective, applying her talent for writing and storytelling to speak out about the dangers of climate change and the need for immediate action. In OH-Wake Magazine, she covers topics ranging from the need for a global collaborative effort to end the climate crisis to the “how-to” basics of starting a community movement.
“I strongly believe that knowledge can unlock possibilities to a better world and writing offers a pathway to knowledge, giving young people the agency and confidence to defend our planet,” she says.
Activists like Moejoh are using and defending their freedom of expression to tell world leaders what the youth need and want for their future, calling for participation in political conversations that are so often held behind closed doors, and demanding transparency and accountability for their actions.
While her main focus is on the power of storytelling in activism, the climate champion is also the co-founder of the U-Recycle initiative, an organization that mobilizes young people in Nigeria to take climate action, and educates them about plastic pollution, ocean conservation, and the need to protect biodiversity.
MAY 2023 SPOTLIGHT
“For me, activism is about actively engaging with — and challenging — societal norms and systems to bring about positive change. It involves speaking out, raising awareness, advocating for justice, and taking action.” - Onalerona Seane
Onalerona Seane calls himself a creativist, which he describes as being a hybrid between a creative and a activist. He uses poetry to address societal issues in South Africa, focusing mostly on gender-based violence (GBV). The young poet believes that creative work has the power to ignite conversations. But his work is not without challenges. Onalerona says that activism comes with a lot of stress as people feel the need to speak out against you, to target you on social media.
While South Africa’s constitution is founded on the principles of equality and non-sexism, the country struggles with pervasive patriarchal attitudes that extend even to police officers. The South African state is often accused by activists of lacking political will and failing to act decisively with regards to GBV.
When people like Onalerona are able to speak freely about issues in their communities, they can influence social and political decisions, which shows the importance of civic space.
Onalerona is the first contributor to Global Citizen’s Emerging Creatives Program, which provides a platform for emerging creatives in the Global South that are using their art to call for change, shine a light on social injustices, and advocate for the advancement of the Global Goals, while highlighting the need for open civic space worldwide.