The Lyrical Lawyer: How Mozambique’s Iveth Uses Hip-Hop to Fight for Human Rights

In the vibrant music scene of Mozambique, Iveth Mafundza Espada, better known by her stage names Iveth, Nkosikazi, or CBC, isn’t your typical rapper. By day, she’s a lawyer working for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mozambique. By night, she transforms into a powerful voice for social justice, weaving hard-hitting lyrics and infectious beats to advocate for human rights.

Iveth’s story is one where music and activism intertwine. Born and raised in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city, she was deeply influenced by hip-hop’s legacy of social commentary. “Hip-hop showed me about social justice,” she says. “[It] has a long legacy of weaving music into protest and demand for change.” This early exposure shaped her music and her career path, leading her to become a lawyer who fights for human rights not just in courtrooms, but also on the stage.

Her dedication to human rights activism through music came to light in early 2024. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Iveth was commissioned to write a song. The result – “Leave No One Behind” – is a powerful testament to her artistry and activism.

“The one thing I wanted with this song is to make music, music with a lot of rhythm that you can feel inside of you. At the same time, I wanted to reach young people and make them understand the story of human rights and how we got where we are today,” she said.  

The song opens with a historical punch, featuring a recording of a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, a key figure in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This sets the stage for a journey through history, with Iveth’s lyrics tracing the evolution of human rights struggles. From the ancient code of Hammurabi to the horrors of slavery and colonialism in Africa, the song acknowledges the long road travelled in the pursuit of equality. It also celebrates the rise of social movements like feminism and indigenous rights, culminating in a call to action aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals – a global commitment to a more just and equitable world.

“Leave No One Behind” is more than just a song; it’s an educational tool. Iveth’s lyrics are packed with historical references and social commentary, making listeners not just move their bodies but also engage their minds. This approach aligns with her self-described style – “educational, interventionist, and positive.” She believes music has the power to transcend language barriers and spark conversations about critical issues.

“Music is a universal language,” Iveth says. “Sometimes you might not understand what the song is saying, but you can feel it.”

This emotional connection is crucial to her work. By combining powerful lyrics with catchy beats, Iveth aims to not only raise awareness of human rights issues but also inspire her audience to take action.

Iveth’s impact extends beyond the music scene. Her work as a lawyer allows her to directly address human rights violations on a legal level. This dual role as artist and activist grants her a unique perspective, allowing her to bridge the gap between legal discourse and public understanding.

“For Iveth, singing hip-hop and being a lawyer and a human rights activist is one and the same,” states a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Iveth’s story is an inspiration for aspiring artists and activists alike. It demonstrates the power of music as a tool for social change and the importance of using one’s voice to advocate for a better world.

While “Leave No One Behind” serves as a powerful example of her work, it’s likely just the beginning for Iveth. With her dedication to social justice and her undeniable talent, she is poised to become a leading voice for human rights in Mozambique and beyond.

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