Celebrities have the unique privilege of always having their voices heard, especially on social media, over the cacophony of others’. Singer and philanthropist Rihanna is no exception. Aside from selling millions of albums and being a style icon, the “Work” singer uses her influence to do good as a revered humanitarian. She was recently honored with Harvard’s Humanitarian Award and gave a speech about why she wants to give back. Rihanna received the award for setting up a college scholarship for Caribbean students to study in the United States and for improving cancer treatment in Barbados, her home country. In her speech the singer said, “All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.”
Recently, Rihanna traveled to Malawi. While there, she met children at under-resourced schools in an initiative with Global Citizen and the Global Partnership for Education, for whom she is an ambassador. She is also the founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation, which worked in partnership with Global Citizen to demand education for students in the poorest areas in the world. Rihanna’s foundation is named after her grandmother, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012. The two organizations together aim to help fund the education of millions of children and young people in developing countries.
In a video shared by Global Citizen, Rihanna states, “It’s such a pity that they have to drop out, because they are so smart.” She continues, “Everybody’s learning together, and learning at the same pace it seems. It’s sad that has to end for some of them, because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete.”
According to the Clara Lionel Foundation, only a small number of students in Malawi finish secondary school. Rihanna’s goal is to convince world leaders to contribute $3.1 billion to funding the Global Partnership for Education. The organization works with education ministries in 89 countries to help them improve the quality of schooling for as many as 800 million children. Rihanna, along with several other artists, also performed at the Global Citizens Festival in 2016, a popular event that raises money to end poverty.
More recently, Rihanna has reached out to world leaders through Twitter to see if they would commit to funding education in support of the Global Partnership for Education. She contacted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French president Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Steffen Seibert, and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri. To the popular Canadian prime minister Trudeau, she asked, “Will you recommit Canada to #FundEducation?”
Trudeau responded directly to Rihanna’s tweet by saying, “We’ve got your back!” and expressing that educating girls is part of Canada’s “feminist international development policy.” Mauricio Macri and Steffen Seibert followed suit. They all publicly reiterated the gravity of funding education and the significant place it has in their countries’ policy goals. Rihanna’s pleas to these leaders not only helps the cause, but raises a lot of awareness among her devoted fanbase. In her speech at Harvard, however, Rihanna wisely said, “You don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian.” She urged students to understand that all it takes is kindness to make a difference.
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