CLEMSON, South Carolina — Russian singer-songwriter Manizha is a rising star with nearly a million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. Unlike most of her contemporaries, the former refugee uses her platform to promote awareness for domestic abuse, LGBTQ rights and fellow refugees. Here is how Manizha’s humanitarian work is making a difference in Russia and beyond.
From Civil War to Stardom
Born in 1991 in Tajikistan, Manizha experienced turmoil from an early age. Her home country fell into civil war and widespread violence after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then, when she was just three years old, her family was forced to migrate to Russia. There her mother raised her and encouraged Manizha’s musical gifts through piano and music lessons.
The years of musical training paid off since Manizha went on to become one of Russia’s most popular independent artists. Manizha represented the country in Eurovision’s 2021 Song Contest after winning Russia’s competition. She accomplished this with her song “Russian Woman,” a powerful piece packed with social commentary. “Russian Woman” promotes themes of tolerance, feminism and the historical struggle of Russian women.
Fighting Against Domestic Abuse
A major focus of Manizha’s humanitarian work is fighting against domestic abuse. She found inspiration from her mother, a psychologist who helped women in abusive environments through counseling and legal defense. Working toward ending domestic abuse through legislation is one of Manizha’s major goals and she carries out work on the issue brilliantly.
Manizha has toured Russia to spread awareness of domestic abuse and released the 2019 song “Mama” about domestic abuse for her awareness-raising campaign. She even developed her own NGO and mobile app, Silsila, which lets women in dangerous situations call for help. The Russian musician also maintains that it is vital to work with men to end domestic abuse since 97% of domestic abuse is carried out by men.
Manizha believes in opening a dialogue with men about their lives to better understand the issue. She showed commitment to this cause through an Instagram project where she would have long, emotional conversations with different men. Whether through songs or campaigns, Manizha is very invested in ending domestic abuse in Russia and worldwide.
Equality for LGBTQ Individuals
Russia does not allow gay marriage. In fact, homophobia is so common in the country where 51% of Russians reported they would not be comfortable with a gay neighbor. As a result, LGBTQ individuals are far more likely to experience poverty and violence in their lifetimes than heteronormative individuals. Manizha is very sympathetic toward the LGBTQ plight and promotes equality in her music and on Instagram. Additionally, these themes of equality are reflected in her hit song “Russian Woman.” The singer continues to spread her message of equality and allyship and refuses to back down in the face of criticism.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Manizha’s humanitarian work is her focus on helping refugees. Since amassing fame and a large following, she has become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency. She is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic because she was a refugee herself at a young age. Manizha wants refugees to have opportunities to succeed in the safety and comfort of a country they can permanently call home.
Without migrating to Russia, she would likely never have reached the success and impact she has achieved. As such, she truly understands why these opportunities are so important for refugees. The refugee crisis is a major problem worldwide, but especially in the regions around Russia. There are 1.5 million displaced Ukrainians alone, according to the U.N. Manizha has spoken on the issue around the world to raise awareness and support for helping refugees. This is yet another of the many powerful examples of Manizha using her platform for good.
More Than a Singer
Aside from being a creative genius, Manizha makes advocacy a priority in her career. She routinely includes under-reported issues in her music and is not afraid to go against the grain on subjects she believes in. Despite being just 30 years old, the independent artist has already made a difference in the lives of many.
Manizha’s humanitarian work is inspirational and offers hope for LGBTQ individuals, victims of domestic abuse and refugees. Not many singers focus as heavily as she does on helping those in need. To keep up with her latest endeavors, follow her on Instagram where she promotes her work and projects.
– Jeremy Long