By Sara Alidina
Art. They say it has the power to change the world, and change begins at home. Muskaan Kassam, a young member of the Tanzanian Jamat, found her incentive to make a difference by creating original art works on a topic that’s close to her heart. Sixteen-year-old Muskaan, who studies at the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, believes that gender inequality is a prevailing issue in society today, and dates back generations. She explained that her work aims to address gender equality in young adults in order to ensure that it is a firm value that is passed on to the future generations.
Muskaan said she has been deeply inspired to fight for this cause, not only based on her personal experiences, but also that of her mother and grandmother. Due to gender norms at the time, she says her mother was limited to staying at home to take care of the children and housework.
To raise awareness on this topic, she combined her passion for art and portrayed her message visually. Muskaan recently set up an art gallery open to the public in Moshi, Tanzania, and created a virtual exhibition, which reached a wider audience of young adults and teenagers globally, and eventually, distributed some of the art pieces to different organizations. One of these includes Project Watu Kamili, who founded The Binti Project, a local non-government organization (NGO). This NGO reaches out to vulnerable women and empowers them.
For as long as she can remember, Muskaan has always had an interest in the visual arts. Engaging in art has always made her happy. She explained that the process of planning for each art piece always begins with conversations with different people to understand their views on gender. These included a diverse range of people selected at random, including a tuk tuk driver, a chef, and many more. Through this, she is able to understand a range of perspectives and base the creation of each of her artworks on a specific group. She strongly feels that the message that has been brought out through her work has shed light on the importance of art and has increased the value of art in her community.
Her advice to other people who also want to bring change in society is to be persistent. She says many people want to make a difference but are reluctant to take action. Although she wanted to give up countless times, she says that she still persevered through the challenges and eventually was able to make a difference. In the near future, she hopes to continue her art initiative and extend it to other mediums of communication and expression to reach out to a wider international audience and continue raising awareness for gender-equality.