13 Instagram Accounts About Social Impact

Instagram icon. Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Instagram icon. Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Social media can be a source of toxicity. So often our feeds are saturated with ads, photoshop, unrealistic body images, and fake representations of peoples’ lives. However, many activists are using social media to promote issues that they are passionate about, in order to reach a wide audience. If you’re looking to bring more heartfelt messages to your feed, here are some accounts to follow: 

1. Global Citizen: @glblctzn

Global Citizen is an organization dedicated to eradicate extreme poverty. But, their Instagram feed educates their followers on a range of social issues. Their goal is to create a global community of people who want to change the world. Their feed helps to connect that community with photos from around the world.

2.  Michael Moore: @michaelfmoore

A filmmaker, author, and activist, Michael Moore raises awareness about corruption in the US government and large corporations through his work. He calls his followers to join him in the polls on his Instagram stories, and is vocal about his political viewpoints through his permanent posts. He sheds light on candidates and social issues in the US.

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3. Nicholas Kristof: @nickkristof 

Nicholas Kristof is a progressive journalist, and columnist for the New York Times. He uses his Instagram mostly to relevant pictures or quotes from his column that he writes. His feed will alert you of important issues or interesting points in history, and encourage you to read and learn more.

4. @everydayafrica

Everyday Africa is a beautiful feed that features contributions from photographers of pictures that highlight everyday life in Africa. They steer away from the extreme and violent images that often saturate the media.

5. UN Refugee Agency: @refugees

The UN Refugee Agency protects over 70 million refugees or displaced people. Their feed is educational, hopeful, and inspirational. It features photos of the people they help and the work that they do, prominent UN activists and ambassadors, as well as important quotes and statistics.

6. Christie Begnell: @meandmyed.art 

Christie Begnell is an illustrator whose mission is to break down the stereotypes that people have about mental health and eating disorders. Christie is going through recovery herself, and uses illustrations to convey a more accurate, realistic depiction of eating disorders and anxiety. Her account encourages body positivity, empathy, and acceptance.

7.  Leanne Lauricella: @goatsofanarchy

Leanne Lauricella runs an animal sanctuary and nonprofit that takes care of handicapped and abused animals. The account, @goatsofanarchy, features cute and funny videos of the goats they take care of. In addition to being adorable, the account raises awareness for the sanctuary, and compassion for animals in general. 

8. Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer: @lgbt_history

Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer started @lgbt_history to educate followers about important events and figures in queer history. The account is completely objective—the goal is simply to educate users with facts. Leighton and Matthew stay relevant by coordinating their posts with current events, linking past to present.

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9.  Shivya Nath: @shivya

A self-proclaimed “vegan drifter,” Shivya Nath is a nomad. She has no home base. She travels her entire life—and posts beautiful pictures wherever she goes. Shivya uses her platform to encourage a sustainable lifestyle—specifically veganism and conscious traveling.

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10. @nastywomenquotes

A mix of quotes from badass feminists (men and women!) and witty relevant screenshots from Television shows, a scroll through Nasty Women Quotes will have you feeling empowered.

11. Mona Chalabi: @monachalabi

Mona Chalabi is a data journalist. She creates illustrations and infographics to help visualize data, and to make facts more understandable and relatable. She tackles all issues, from countering racism and ageism, to raising awareness for animal rights and wage gaps.

12 @indigenousgoddessgang

The accompanying Instagram account to its magazine, Indigenous Goddess Gang posts memes, quotes, art, and pictures that further their goal of “reclaiming knowledge from an indigenous femme lens.” Make sure to check out their magazine as well.

13. Kuchenga Shenje- @kuchenga

Journalist, author, and Black Lives Matter activist, Kuchenga’s page is full of empowering artwork and photography, as well as advocacy for trans representation and diversity in general. 

With their stories and permanent posts, these Instagrammers give daily inspiration and empowerment to their followers.

ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 


7 websites and apps that make giving easy!

Small change can make a difference. Photo by Kat Yukawa.

Small change can make a difference. Photo by Kat Yukawa.

New technology has allowed giving to be easier, and more accessible for those who don’t have the time or funds to give hundreds to charities or conduct due-diligence. Organizations have created websites and apps that allow anyone to give directly from their cell. 

  1. Good Today  

Good Today members give a small amount to charity every day. You can sign up for a payment plan of as little as $.25 a day. Each day, members receive an email with the cause of the day, and then an option of two different charities that have the cause as their mission. You can then select which charity you would like your money to go to, or have your money roll over to the next day.

 2. Amazon Smile 

With Amazon Smile, you can shop for the same exact products as Amazon.com. However, .5% of the price of each item that you purchase will go to the registered charity of your choice. Just do your shopping on smile.amazon.com. 

3. Budge

 On Budge, you can play games and play charity at the same time! You can create an account, and then challenge a friend to any game of your choice. If you win, your opponent will make a small donation to charity. But if you lose, you give. 

4. Charity Miles 

For those who need an extra incentive to work out, Charity Miles can help you and others. The best part? All of the money donated is from outside corporations, so you don’t need to give anything yourself. Download the app, and for every mile you move, you earn money for an organization from Charity Miles’ corporate sponsorship pool. 

5. Donate a Photo

This app is sponsored by Johnson and Johnson. Donate a Photo curated a list of charities that Johnson and Johnson will donate to every time you share any photo to their app. 


JustGive is an online platform that makes fundraising and donating easy and seamless. You can provide direct support to a charity or family in need. Or, you can create a fundraising campaign yourself! 

7. VolunteerMatch

If you want to give time instead of money, VolunteerMatch is the website for you. Just type in your area and VolunteerMatch will provide you with a multitude of volunteer opportunities for organizations. 

With these apps and websites, giving has never been easier. There is no need to write large checks in order to be a philanthropist. 

ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 


Women Take the Mic on Nsawya FM

Saudi feminists are giving voice to obstacles against women’s rights in their new radio show.

Illustration depicting the impact of restricted women’s rights because of male guardianship.  (Source: Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia: ‘Unofficial Guardianship Rules Banned. © 2016 by Human Rights Watch

Illustration depicting the impact of restricted women’s rights because of male guardianship.

(Source: Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia: ‘Unofficial Guardianship Rules Banned. © 2016 by Human Rights Watch

On July 27th, eleven women gave life to Nsawya FM, or Feminism FM, with a simple tweet stating their aim to be the “voice of the silent majority.” Since then, their radio broadcasts have detailed stories of women’s rights abuse with just a laptop, editing software (to disguise the voices of the women sharing the stories), and a microphone. According to Ashtar, a pseudonym for one of the women involved, “the voice of women is revolution.”

And women have been raising their voices. Of the 6.3 million Saudis on Twitter in 2016, 40% were women as found in a study by the Rutgers’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership Report. The same study supported the importance of Twitter in Saudi society by stating that it was the “most effective and influential social network.” This is in part because political leaders monitor Twitter, making political activity more likely to be seen on the social media platform.

Still the potential to be blocked by the government on Twitter—which Nsawya FM states happened temporarily—is why they have chosen the radio: they do not want to risk losing the “archive of [their] thoughts.”

Nsawya FM’s archive consists of submissions by Saudi women of their stories, opinions, and criticisms on women’s rights, such as domestic abuse. The first stories told were of Hanan Shahri and Sara. Both stories highlight the effects of male guardianship: a system where a women’s crucial decisions—including travel, marriage, and studying abroad—are made by a male figure. These guardians can be fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons.

Shahri’s story was widely reported in 2013 after she killed herself following a beating by her brother and uncle and their refusal to allow her to marry her fiancé. Then there is Sara, a university student whose dream to marry her fiancé from Yemen, following approval from her parents, was ended when her brother shot her.

So it is no surprise that women began turning to Twitter to push back against guardianship. In 2016 they coined #AbolishGuardianship to highlight abuse and rally support against it. Within two months, 14,000 signatures had been collected for an online petition against guardianship. Although gradual changes have occurred for women, most notably the ability to drive, male guardianship is grounded in religion and cuts across all socio-economic classes.

But to these 11 women producers and their 2500 audience members there is hope that civilian law might one day replace the Islamic law. They are bringing the stories traditionally protected under male guardianship to light and public criticism.

“Of course [they] are scared,” as Ashtar has also been quoted saying. But their fear is driven by a determination for equal rights. For them it begins with placing the women’s narrative before the public’s eyes: Nsawya FM is making a statement on behalf of Saudi women to the world that they exist.



TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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Anthony Bourdain’s Window into Africa

In Season 3 of ‘Parts Unknown,’ Anthony Bourdain took viewers to Tanzania.  CNN

In Season 3 of ‘Parts Unknown,’ Anthony Bourdain took viewers to Tanzania. CNN

Anthony Bourdain might have been a celebrity chef, but viewers of his Emmy Award-winning travel show, “Parts Unknown,” didn’t tune in for curry and noodle recipes.

Cooking was simply the conceit Bourdain used to have a conversation about the culture, politics, struggles and triumphs of people around the world.

As a human geographer, I was drawn to how Bourdain upended the travel show genre, telling compelling and complicated stories about people and places most Western viewers tend to view through a lens of simplistic stereotypes or caricatures.

Even more remarkable, his work wasn’t relegated to obscurity. The show aired on CNN – a mainstream cable outlet with millions of viewers.

I was especially interested in the way the show depicted Africa, a continent Western media tends to portray using what novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously called a “single story” – a monolithic narrative of poverty, backwardness and hopelessness.

So in a paper published last fall, I analyzed Bourdain’s Africa episodes, which took viewers to Congo-Kinshasa, South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar and Ethiopia.

In them, he largely rejects the “single story” approach taken by much travel writing, and later travel television, since at least the 16th century. While the stories told about Africa in the West have changed over time, they’ve often lacked nuance and multiple voices – something Bourdain was eager to provide.

A ‘single story’ of horror and hopelessness

In the imaginations of many Westerners, Africa exists as a silent, docile, set piece – a contrasting “other.”

Sociologist Jan Nederveen Pieterse notes that for centuries – through deliberate lies and well-meaning mistakes – travel writers, missionaries and popular media outlets have wrongly depicted Africa as a place devoid of civilization, a frontier of wilderness and savagery.

The dominant narrative goes something like this: If the West is stable, Africa must be chaotic; if the West is mature, Africa must be infantile; and if the West is technologically advanced, Africa must be primitive.

Reality television and travel shows often deploy these tropes. Cultural anthropologist Kathryn Mathers has written widely on media depictions of Africa, suggesting that programs like “Survior: Africa” and Nicholas Kristof’s popular newspaper columns tell predictable stories of poverty and chaos with little effort to contextualize them within a larger history.

The dynamic voices of Africans – hardly a monolithic category – are often absent in these narratives. In the rare event they do appear, they’re often presented as people without politics who exist only to welcome tourists and protect rhinos. Intrepid conservation officers and overburdened health workers are favorite characters, along with the traditional leader, the street vendor and the small child in school uniform.

Cable news coverage of Africa also tells a “single story.” As Mathers wryly notes, when the continent does get coverage, the stories can be distilled down to the same topic: “the horrors of the hopeless continent, as seen on CNN.”

Bourdain’s critical lens

But Anthony Bourdain was also “seen on CNN.”

Beginning with his memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” Bourdain built his persona as a speaker of unspoken truths. Likewise, he steered his travel show to “parts unknown” – or, more accurately, parts only known through incomplete tropes.

In each episode, Bourdain gives a brief historical overview to remind the audience that places are made by their histories. He doesn’t gloss over the difficult ones. For example, when explaining contemporary Congo, he implicates his American viewers:

“When the new country managed to inaugurate their first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, the CIA and the British, working through the Belgians, had him killed. We helped to install this miserable bastard in his place: Joseph Mobutu.”

When Bourdain is in Madagascar, he reflects on his own conflicted relationship to tourism and colonialism.

In Season 6, Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelssonjoins him in Ethiopia. Together, they explore the theme of home in the context of the African diaspora.

While one might criticize Bourdain’s perspectives, he could never be accused of taking a sanitized, apolitical approach.

In the episode on Tanzania, he visits a Maasai village – a common pit stop for travel shows about East Africa. But “Parts Unknown” rejects the stereotype that the Maasai are an isolated, backwards tribe that exists apart from the modern world.

When a villager learns that Bourdain was born in New Jersey, he tells the host that his son attends university there. The conversation picks up again later in the episode, when Bourdain and the Maasai man thoughtfully ponder globalization and the anxiety and opportunity of social change. Bourdain understands that his African hosts aren’t anchored to a static past. Instead, they are dynamic actors in a global economy.

Bourdain writes his own reflections into each script. In Madagascar, Bourdain reminds viewers that

“the camera is a liar. It shows everything. It shows nothing. It reveals only what we want. Often, what we see is seen only from a window, moving past and then gone. One window. My window. If you had been here, chances are you would have seen things differently.”

The episode then cuts to previously rolled footage but reedited in the style of Mathers’ “horrors of the hopeless.” It’s all done to show the ease with which dominant narratives are packaged and to emphasize that “Parts Unknown” seeks to convey something entirely different.

The greatest strength of “Parts Unknown” was its comfort with unknowns remaining unknown – its resistance to arriving at singular truths about complex places. Bourdain never claimed that the “artifice of making television” – as he called it – allowed more than “one window, his window.”

Yet it was an open window, a critical lens that helped his large audience disentangle the tropes so often served up by popular media. Bourdain was critical of the single story, critical of widely held stereotypes and perhaps most critical of his own position as a masterful storyteller.