“Fed Up” with corruption, rappers inspire a new generation to create a better Senegal.

005 Yen a Marre 2_LDiSilvio_CC_cropIn the summer of 2011, the streets of Dakar—Senegal’s capital city—filled with young protesters who could no longer stand the economic and social problems they had witnessed throughout the country. Many young people were outraged about rampant government corruption, frequent power outages, strikes that close down schools, and the escalating prices of basic commodities. They called for new leaders and joined others in accusing incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade of mismanaging their country.

Many of the protests were led by a group of young, influential rappers and journalists. All in their 20s and 30s, this group came together in 2011 to transform the rage and desperation they felt into action. They aimed to fix the problems they saw in their country, using hip hop as a way to involve youth in social change. They called themselves Y’en a Marre: “Fed Up.”

“We repeated the words ‘Y’en a marre’ to keep from feeling that we were sealed in by the futility of our lives … as a mantra for bringing a mass movement into being,” wrote Fadel Barro, a founding member of the organization. “Within it, individuals would become more conscious of their own personal power, be willing to unite with others and then take bold grassroots action for the good of the whole community.”

In its first year, the group ran a voter registration drive and campaigned against President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for re-election. The organization’s efforts sent young people to the polls in record numbers, and the youth vote ultimately played a major role in defeating Wade. “I want to participate in the development of my country,” said Kilifeu, one of Y’en a Marre’s leaders. “I didn’t want a life where I just eat, work, have a family and die. I want to create a new world.”

“I want to participate in the development of my country,” said Kilifeu, one of Y’en a Marre’s leaders. “I didn’t want a life where I just eat, work, have a family and die. I want to create a new world.”

Since the election, the group has continued to strengthen young people’s leadership and stoke their desire for social justice, encouraging volunteerism and grassroots response to communities in need. Last year, during an episode of major flooding, Y’en a Marre organized volunteers to take to the streets again—this time to clean blocked roads and damaged hospitals, rather than waiting for the government to help.

Y’en a Marre’s leaders plan to build on their initial success to “give our generation a boost towards a better tomorrow.” The organization hopes to eventually support youth entrepreneurship so that young people can improve their lives; take environmental action to protect Senegal’s natural resources; and monitor public officials to hold them accountable for keeping promises and governing justly.