Musician and activist for social, gender, and climate justice
Malian-born Inna Modja is variously described as a musician, an actor, an
artist, a United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Land Ambassador, Chief Executive Officer of Code Green, and an entrepreneur in the Web3 space, dealing in one-off digital works of art to fund green and social projects. But at heart, she is an activist.
“Growing up in the Sahel, I witnessed the land degradation caused by a changing climate, and saw how women and girls were disproportionately suffering the consequences,” she says. “I quickly realized you cannot dissociate women and girls’ rights from climate change activism.” So, she took up both of these causes.
She started her musical career under the auspices of iconic artists Salif Touré and Oumou Sangaré before moving to France to study law. In between, she starred in a documentary titled The Great Green Wall, about Africa’s ambitious project to restore degraded landscapes in the Sahel. By holding back the expansion of the desert, the initiative seeks to counter food insecurity, conflict and forced migration.
Modja is now a Land Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and a campaigner for gender equality and the end of female genital mutilation. To get the message across, she taps into her creative self.
“Art—be it music, films or paintings—is a powerful tool to unite people and create global movements,” she says. “I have used my music to support initiatives such as the Great Green Wall, and it has proved very effective.”
Despite the challenges and inequities she addresses every day, Modja remains optimistic. Asked about her message for girls in Africa and beyond, she writes words that read like lyrics—waiting for a voice and a kora (the stringed West African instrument that features in much of her music) to bring them to life:
“Keep going, women and girls.
Stand up for yourself.
You have earned the right to own and to work,
the right to be independent and make your own decisions.
You have the right to education
and the right to equality.
Women and girls, this is the time to seize your power.”