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2024 Call for Submissions

In partnership with MSU’s Muslim Studies Center and African Studies Center the 2024 Global Voices Essay Contest is open to 15-24 year olds from the Middle East and North Africa (see eligible nationalities/groups below). We invite youth to share their stories in order to raise awareness, amplify their voices, and inspire others. 

  • Eligibility: 15 to 24 year-olds whose nationality is: Afghan; Algerian; Armenian; Assyrian / Chaldean; Azerbaijani; Bahraini; Berber; Circassian; Djiboutian; Egyptian; Emirati; Georgian; Israeli; Iranian; Iraqi; Jordanian; Kurdish; Kuwaiti; Lebanese; Libyan; Mauritanian; Moroccan; Omani; Palestinian; Qatari; Saudi Arabian; Somali; Sudanese; Syrian; Tunisian; Turkish; Yemeni
  • Submission Due Date: June 27, 2024
  • Essay Length: 600 - 900 words
  • Submission Language: English
  • Theme: "Authoring Our Own Story"  Youth have the chance to tell a new story about their homelands and their unique, personal experiences. They can choose to claim, re-frame, or reject the dominant narratives, and give a new perspective on what life is like in the Middle East and North Africa for youth in 2024.

(Promotional PDF flyer: Essay Contest Poster 2024)

Step 1: Choose one sub-theme for your essay:

The essay contest will be split into five sub-themes which are outlined below. The examples and questions given in each description are merely to inspire ideas; they are not exhaustive. You should feel free to use creativity and own voice in your response. Please select the category which most closely fits your story!

Everyday Life and Culture

While life is certainly punctuated by the large events, the majority of a life is made up of the small, everyday moments. What are the everyday aspects of life in your home country that could be perceived as ordinary, but are extraordinary to you? What are the cultural activities you take part in, and how have they shaped the person you are today? Are there ways you could use these cultural ties to help cultivate a sense of safety and belonging in your community? 

Media Coverage of Your Country

How the media portrays life in the Middle East and North Africa does not tell the whole story. How has the media coverage of your home country affected your own perceptions of where you are from? What do you wish people knew more about? Stories for this sub-theme may also include a retelling or reframing of media coverage, including how the media could be reshaped to better reflect your experience. How might young people positively influence media coverage?

Race and Citizenship

The definition of a “citizen” is “a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.” The relationship between race and citizenship has a complicated history, making this definition of “citizen” unapproachable or impossible for certain people groups throughout time. For this sub-theme, we invite reflections on how your racial or ethnic identity has affected your sense of citizenship in your home country. This could also include lessons learned from the experience of being displaced from your home country.

Forging Connections

Much of the global discourse today focuses on our differences—between ethnicities, cultural traditions, religions, and political beliefs. Youth have a unique chance in today’s interconnected world of technology and social media to build community across borders, forging connection in otherwise isolating contexts. Stories for this theme might include the challenges you and the youth in your community face when finding community, and how you are forging connections even in light of these barriers.

Youth and Leadership

Youth have the ability to fulfill a unique role as leaders working toward sustainable and innovative solutions, not only for global issues, but also related to the development of their own countries. Stories for this sub-theme may highlight the role youth are playing or can play as a new generation of ethical leaders. You might also or discuss the challenges they face and/or the education, skills, and resources needed for youth to be able to effect transformative change. 

Step 2: Write your essay using 600-900 words.

 Step 3: Submit your essay:

  • Save your essay as a Microsoft Word document
  • Submit it via the submission system
    • Note: If the writer is less than 18 years old, parental or guardian consent must also be provided via the submission system. See the blank Parent/Guardian Consent Form which must be completed, signed, and uploaded to the submission system together with the essay submission.


  • First Place Winner: $500
  • Second Place: $200
  • Third Place: $100


The best essays within each sub-theme will be published online and/or in print. By submitting an essay, you must agree that it may be published online and/or in print. Any proceeds will be used to advance global youth advocacy, access, and opportunity. 

Judging Criteria

Our student, faculty, and staff judging panel will rate the essays on the following criteria: 

  • Originality: Essay shows a great deal of independent and thought-provoking insight. It gives a sense of the person behind the words. Original, creative, honest, and engaging. 

  • Appropriateness to the Theme: Writer connects their story to the overall theme of "Authoring Our Own Stories" as well as one of the five sub-themes with well-chosen reasons/examples.

  • Critical Insights: The writer demonstrates a deep, fresh understanding of the subject. Original ideas are presented and developed through facts, examples, anecdotes, details, opinions, statistics, reasons, and/or explanations.

  • Solutions: The author explores ways that they themself or young people in general have a role in creating positive change. 

  • Organization/Use of Language:Essay is artfully structured, moving the reader smoothly and naturally through the text. Free of spelling and punctuation errors. Grammar usage is controlled. Meets word limit.