Rhythms of Change: Music as a Tool of Empowerment and Social Justice

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

8.8 million youth 15 to 24 years are not studying nor employed or under any type of training, Uganda’s Youthful Population Quick Facts by United Nations Population Fund.

“I want to inspire and impact youth in a positive way, using what I know how to do,” Emmanuel Obua, musician and creator of Rhythms of Change.

Music is the language of the spirit – no matter what our background or nationality – so when we listen to a melody and our hearts understand the emotion it embodies, we experience happiness, melancholy or love, among other things. Music is a way to connect at a deeper level and much more. In fact, the German music genius Ludwig van Beethoven once said that “music can change the world”; something that Emmanuel Obua believes as well.

Emmanuel Obua, also known by the stage name of Tim Darsh, is a musical artist, producer, writer and video editor from Lira City, Northern Uganda. He studied Social Work and Social Administration at Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda. While growing up, he witnessed first hand the challenges and obstacles that many young people face in his hometown, Lira City, including poverty, limited education and social exclusion. 

“The main problem that I see in Lira City is the lack of opportunities for the youth,” explains Emmanuel. “Youth is the majority of the population in Uganda but the opportunities are very little, especially when you come from places like these: underprivileged and marginalized; then your chances are very slim to actually make it in life. That is why a lot of these youth end up being stray and with drug abuse problems, a lot of crime rates go high because young people do not have anything to focus on, some of them are desensitized. They end up doing illegal stuff trying to survive just because they didn’t have any opportunities, not even to go to school.”

Facts About Youth in Uganda

Uganda is a country with a high percentage of young people. According to Uganda’s Youthful Population Quick Facts by United Nations Population Fund, 34.8% of the 34.6 million people in Uganda are adolescents and every year 1.2 million new Ugandans are born, yet their everyday life is not always easy.

The organization notes that 10% of children 9-12 have never been to school, 22% of adolescents 13 to 18 drop out of school and 8.8 million youth 15 to 24 are not studying nor employed or under any type of training. Furthermore, by the age 15 to 19, 1 in every 4 teenage girls are pregnant or have been mothers and every year 9,600 teens ages 15 to 19 become infected with HIV.

Music as a Tool for Social Justice

Music has always been a very important part of Emmanuel´s life. He is a hip hop artist, producer, writer and video editor who has collaborated with many other artists and community organizations to create music and events that promote social justice, youth empowerment and community development.

“My interest in music started way back when I was a child, when I was about 8 or 9 years old,” recalls Emmanuel. “I started writing and recording after I finished college. I started recording professionally and doing professional performances, really evolving into a mature musical artist. After that I thought that maybe I could impact the youth in a positive way using what I know how to do.” 

Emmanuel has released two Hip Hop albums, “Lyet” and “A Mobb Quiet Storm.” which have earned him three nominations at the Uganda Hip Hop Awards. He has also been involved in mentoring and coaching young artists, helping them to develop their skills and find their own voice in the music industry.

“My work is not just about making music, but about using my platform to make a positive impact in the lives of others. I am deeply committed to creating a better future for the youth of Lira City and beyond, and I believe that music can be a powerful tool for social change,” says Emmanuel.

Rhythms of Change 

Emmanuel recognizes the impact that music and artists have on the youth and the social responsibility that accompanies it. That is why he decided to take the opportunity to connect with the young people from Lira City, hoping to make positive changes by inspiring them.

“Some of the youth will actually take advice more from the music rather than from their parents. A lot of these youth look up to us – the artists – as role models. When we speak, they tend to listen to us more than anyone. Music is very impactful in changing for the youth,” explains Emmanuel.

Therefore, Emmanuel created Rhythms of Change, a project that consists of a series of workshops and performances that will be held in schools, community centers, and other public spaces throughout Lira City. Emmanuel and other local artists will conduct the workshops that will cover a range of topics related to hip hop music, including music production, lyric writing, performance skills, and the role of music in social change. The public performances will provide young people with an opportunity to showcase their skills and talents and connect with others in the community; they will be held in a variety of settings, including music festivals, cultural events, and community gatherings.

“In Rhythms of Change we aim to use music as a tool for empowerment and social change,” says Emmanuel. “I can see a lot of potential in the youth from Lira City, but a lot of them don’t have the opportunity to get training like I did. Others look at the people who live in this area like they don’t have any value, society pushes them aside and forgets them. So I saw this as an opportunity to use what I know to give back to my people.”

Reaching Out to The Pollination Project

To make this project possible, Emmanuel searched for the funds needed for instruments, venues and advertisement. That is when he came across The Pollination Project. 

“I heard about The Pollination Project from a friend of mine,” remembers Emmauel.  “He told me I should check it out. So I went to the website and I was amazed reading stories from other changemakers. When I knew I was going to receive the grant I was so, so happy, overjoyed! This is like you believe in what I am doing. I am delighted. I want to thank you, this fund is a blessing.”


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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.