Arab Spring, public diplomacy, Women

Hip Hop, Soccer, and Women’s Voices

It’s March 8 — International Women’s Day — and a great occasion to introduce two remarkable women who will travel to Washington DC later this month to speak at George Washington University.

Tumi Mosadi, not yet 30, directs GlobalGirl Media in Johannesburg, South Africa, teaching social media and video-journalism skills to high school girls who are struggling against stacked odds: poverty, disease, violence.  Through Tumi’s dedication, these girls find their voices.  They learn to tell their own stories, and the stories of those around them.  When South Africa hosted the 2010 soccer World Cup, Tumi helped the girls talk about what this remarkable event meant for them as citizens of South Africa, even if soccer is not traditionally a girls’ game there.  Since 2011, Tumi has helped the girls find their voices to talk about HIV and AIDS.

Soultana, at 25, is a Moroccan rap star, still a rarity in that North African country.  With fellow members of the trio “Tigresse Flow” she won several national music awards in Morocco, including the prize for best emerging talent at the prestigious annual Mawazine festival.   Last year, Soultana released a solo music video: “Sawt Nssa” or “The Voice of Women.”

Soultana raps about poverty, double standards, and exploitation.  She sings “The woman’s voice is what I’m calling / The girl’s voice that is lost in my country / The voice of those who want to talk, who want to say: a voice of all women who want a sign.”

So what do these remarkable women have in common?   And what brings them together at GWU later this month?

What Tumi and Soultana share is their embrace of cross-cultural dialogue and international partnerships — and specifically their participation in programs that are part of United States cultural diplomacy.

Global Girl Media works to give girls a journalist’s voice, with programs in Los Angeles, South Africa and elsewhere. U.S. Embassy public diplomacy grants help send American volunteer mentors/trainers to South Africa.   At the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg, I saw clearly the thirst for such programs and opportunities, and their potential for great impact.  But Tumi herself can speak from the inside, can talk about what she’s learned as a trainer and mentor about effectiveness, and about the changes she has seen in the lives of the participating girls.

Half a continent away, Soultana came to know several young U.S. Fulbright researchers who were studying hip hop culture in Morocco, and helped guide them through Casablanca’s complex cultural scene.  Last year, she visited the U.S. via the International Visitors Leadership Program, adding on an artists’ residency and New York festival performance.   At the U.S. Embassy in Morocco, I saw first-hand the emerging power of young aspirations and voices in that country, which, just as in the U.S., are so often expressed through music.   But Soultana herself can speak about how it feels to be a young, pioneering woman expressing the concerns of a generation.  And her prior experience in America will help her to tell us these things in our own language of cultural understanding.

The best news is that both of these remarkable individuals will be featured speakers at “Hip Hop Diplomacy: Connecting Through Culture,” a conference the IPDGC will host on March 27, from 2:00 – 5:00 pm at the Elliott School of International Relations.  Click on the link for details, and to RSVP.  We hope to see you there!

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About Mary Jeffers

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department or the U.S. Government. The author is a State Department officer specializing in public diplomacy, currently detailed to the IPDGC to teach and work on various Institute projects.

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