The Power Of The Pen To Change The World: Introducing The Community Voices Fellows

Meet the GlobalGiving Community Voices Fellows, change leaders from six countries channeling the power of the pen.


It’s a sunny day in Mikocheni, Tanzania.

Sia Fred Towo clutches a bag of reusable sanitary pads in one hand, showcasing it for a group of women in a dusty yard with a look of seriousness and pride that rarely accompanies menstrual products.

Sia is the director of Femme International, a nonprofit in East Africa on a mission to break down global menstrual taboos. She struggled through her first periods alone—the only girl in a family with five brothers, made too ashamed to talk to her reserved mom about what was happening to her body. Fast forward to today. Sia is not only bringing period products to remote villages in Tanzania, she is bravely bearing her own painful experiences in a borderless and ageless format—the op-ed.

Community Voices Fellow Sia Towo works to end period poverty in Tanzania.
Sia distributes period products in Mikocheni, Tanzania.

Courageous women from Afghanistan, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Peru are turning to the power of the pen to expose injustices and inspire change on a broad array of urgent issues from climate change to education access. Sia is one of six grassroots change leaders who are writing op-eds about their personal experiences with these issues in partnership with GlobalGiving.

Why op-eds? The timeless op-ed has been proven to have large and long-lasting effects on people’s views, regardless of their occupations and political affiliations, according to a Yale University study. Up to 70% of people who read op-eds agreed with the authors’ views immediately after they finished reading.

Yet, when it comes to life-or-death issues, vitally important voices are missing. Representation of women and Global Majority expert voices in publishing spaces of all kinds still lags behind white, Western men. This needs to change.

Take authorship on climate change, one of the most urgent challenges facing humankind. Climate change authorship from the Global Majority hovers at a mere 1-19%, according to analyses from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Society for Conservation Biology. The brunt of climate change consequences fall on the very people who are excluded from dialogue about how to curb it.

Likewise, women’s voices are chronically underrepresented. One study found women made up 19% of experts featured in news stories and 37% of reporters telling stories globally.

To help turn the tide, GlobalGiving is supporting six Global Majority community leaders working on urgent social issues through a new Community Voices Fellowship. The fellows also received support from The OpEd Project and Energize Your Voice to amplify powerful solutions from within their communities that too often go unheard.

Watch a short video about the power of Community Voices.

The OpEd Project has been on a mission to change who writes history since 2008. Since its founding, the project has produced tens of thousands of published ideas (op-eds and much more), reaching hundreds of millions of viewers, readers, and listeners. And the founder of Energize Your Voice, Minna Taylor, is herself an accomplished author and speaker, who saw in her work the economic barriers that many grassroots leaders face in accessing high-quality professional development opportunities. She launched a pro bono arm of her business to address the gap.

It’s a gap that Hassina Sherjan has been laboring to close for most of her adult life. Hassina, another Community Voices Fellow, founded the nonprofit Aid Afghanistan for Education. When she returned to her native Afghanistan in the 90s, she witnessed the devastating choices and sacrifices confronting many Afghan women. At a refugee camp, Hassina writes about a woman who approached her with her newborn twins and asked, “Which one do you think is healthier? Because I cannot keep both. I don’t have enough milk and no money to purchase milk.” Hassina came to see access to education as the key to women’s emancipation from incomprehensible suffering. She started Aid Afghanistan for Education with five clandestine classrooms for 250 girls in Kabul and eventually served more than 7,000 students. But with the return of the Taliban to power in 2021, progress for girls and women in Afghanistan is at a standstill. Currently, 80% of school-aged girls and young women in Afghanistan are out of school.

It’s past time to elevate the experiences of courageous women like Sia and Hassina and focus on their voices and their solutions. One way to help their solutions be heard now is through reading and sharing their work on GlobalGiving.

But we can’t stop there. Global Majority perspectives need to be on the front pages of our newspapers, broadcast on prime-time television, uplifted in every public forum, everywhere. It’s only the way the pressing problems facing our world will ever be solved.

Introducing the 2023 Community Voices Fellows

From harnessing ancient Indigenous water technologies as climate solutions to shining a spotlight on period poverty, the GlobalGiving Community Voices Fellows are leveraging the power of the pen to make their voices heard.

Learn more about the fellows in their op-eds.


This article also appears in Ms. Magazine.

Featured Photo: GlobalGiving Community Voices Fellow Paloma Rodríguez photographed by Karina Chávez in Peru by GlobalGiving and Instituto de Montaña

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