SEATTLE — Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty is not only a singer, songwriter, actress and entrepreneur, but also one of the greatest philanthropic celebrities of her generation. Recently, Rihanna helped raise $2.3 billion for global education. In February 2018 in Senegal, Africa, the 29-year-old humanitarian joined French president Emmanuel Macron in attending a fundraising conference for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), where she spoke to advocates and supported efforts towards fundraising for improved educational access for boys and girls in developing countries.
The GPE is the only international organization that focuses solely on funding education in developing countries, and Rihanna was named the partnership’s first-ever Global Ambassador in 2016. As the Global Ambassador, Rihanna’s role is to encourage world leaders and policymakers to boost their support for global education and travel around the world to actively engage in improving and fundraising education in some of the world’s most impoverished communities.
Rihanna was chosen for this position after founding the Clara Lionel Foundation in 2012, an international organization that also supports funding and improving education for young people across the globe. The nonprofit organization partners with the GPE, engages in health and emergency response programs around the world, provides scholarships for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries and hosts an annual Diamond Ball to raise money for global programs. In February 2017, Rihanna was named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year for her charitable work through the Clara Lionel Foundation and partnership with the GPE, and in April 2018, Rihanna was honored on the 2018 TIME 100 Most Influential People list.
On February 2, 2018, in Dakar, Senegal, Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation partnered with the GPE in facilitating the inaugural GPE Financing Conference, the largest education financing event ever organized. Attendants of the event included co-hosts President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Emmanuel Macron of France, thousands of partners around the world and Rihanna. At the conference, it was announced that donors have pledged $2.3 billion to the GPE fund for the next three years, which goes toward creating stronger and more inclusive education systems in developing countries.
Rihanna’s role as the Global Ambassador has greatly influenced GPE’s funding over the past two years. Her efforts traveling around the world to raise funds and encourage research have helped the GPE’s funds nearly double this year. Additionally, Rihanna briefly, but effectively spoke to the conference’s crowd, saying, “We have made tremendous progress today, but of course, our work is never done,” and “We have a long way to go, and this is a fight we are never going to stop fighting, until every boy and every girl has access to education.” Rihanna has also powerfully spoken about the fight for global education on the GPE website, stating, “The lack of access to education for children around the world is a massive problem, but that doesn’t mean we should just throw up our hands in despair and surrender.”
Rihanna helped raise $2.3 billion for global education, and the funds will go towards assistance for 870 million children in 89 countries between 2018 and 2020. This is definitely a success for the Global Partnership for Education, but where does the international organization go from here? The GPE aims to stay mobilized and continue their advocacy efforts both by engaging top political groups to secure more education funding, as well as depending on world leaders to follow through with pledges they undertook. Also, the GPE aspires to reach its funding target: $2 billion per year by 2020. However, the GPE acknowledges that although their efforts have been outstanding, the education crisis is far from over, and like their Global Ambassador said, “Our work is never done.”
– Natalie Shaw