Social Justice

Presidio Heights native strikes out to clean water, improve women’s lives

by Michael Durand

Among the 200,000 protesters who marched down Market Street in 2003 to denounce the Iraq war was 13-year-old Presidio Heights native Talia Fried. Seven years after graduating from college, Fried’s full-time job is to help change the world.

Fried moved to New York in 2015, found her dream job online, and is now helping to fight a water and sanitation crisis around the globe. She is the global policy and government affairs manager at a non-profit organization, Global Citizen, with offices in Melbourne, London, Berlin, New York and Toronto.

“I attended some of the protests and started thinking about the fact that the people living in Iraq were suddenly thrust into a violent conflict just because they happened to have been born in Iraq,” Fried said.

“That got me thinking about the luck of the draw, or lack thereof, in terms of where we’re born and the advantages or disadvantages we’re granted just because of where we were born. That got me thinking about what could be done to address the inequalities because of circumstances. That pushed me into studying sociology at U.C. Santa Cruz.

“Growing up, and going to the Urban School in the Haight, I learned about San Francisco’s history and began to see the connection between activism and music, which is central to the Global Citizen mission,” Fried said.

Talia_Photo1 copy

 Talia Fried (right) with Global Citizen youth advocate Shomy
Chowdhury, who is from Bangladesh and works on water and sanitation
hygiene education through her group, Awareness 360. Courtesy photo.

Fried grew up on Jackson Street, near Arguello Boulevard, and went to Katherine Delmar Burke School, a K-8 all-girls school in the Sea Cliff neighborhood.

“San Francisco really instilled the activist spirit in me,” Fried said. “It gave me an appreciation for being different, embracing diversity and openness, and learning about other peoples, which is really at the core of the San Francisco spirit.”

Talia’s parents still live in the City. Her mother is a writer, a journalist from Chicago. Her father studied architecture so Fried grew up with an appreciation for the architecture in San Francisco.

Fried currently lives in Brooklyn and works at the Manhattan headquarters of Global Citizen. The nonprofit’s goal is to end extreme poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 by organizing civic engagement all over the world.

Global Citizen has generated commitments from all 193 member countries of the United Nations, with a mission to achieve 17 sustainable development goals, including ending poverty and hunger; promoting education; equality; clean water and sanitation; clean energy; and, environmental stewardship.

The organization manages financial aid valued at more than $30 billion, which is used to help about a billion people around the world.

“We believe in standing up and taking action for the most vulnerable citizens,” Fried said.

Fried has a special focus on water and sanitation and leads campaigns, with her 12-member team, to halt open defecation, as well as finding menstrual hygiene solutions for women.

Global Citizen uses music, film, sports and entertainment to engage millions of people around the globe to take action and make a difference. An annual event is held in New York City in September to coincide with the United Nation’s general assembly.

“Last year, the festival drew 60,000 people to a concert in Central Park, which was seen by millions of people worldwide,” Fried said. “Performers included Stevie Wonder, Green Day, The Killers, The Lumineers and The Chainsmokers.

“Tickets are free, but concert-goers are required to perform an action supporting sustainable development goals, such as tweeting to a world leader requesting their involvement with the goals’ commitments. We have extended the action-based model to Australia, Canada, India and Germany. We also have a great partnership with Live Nation Entertainment, so activists can earn points by taking action on issues, then redeem  the points for tickets to concerts and events throughout the year all around the world.”

Madge Thomas, director of global policy and government affairs at Global Citizen, appreciates Fried’s hard work.

“Talia is a passionate and energetic activist who has tackled campaigns on some of the most taboo issues that affect those living in extreme poverty and helped build awareness, promote behavior change and generate funding on these issues,” Thomas said. “Her work has directly helped to affect change in the lives of 881 million people through essential water, sanitation and hygiene services and programs and the difficult task of holding governments and institutions, like the world bank, accountable for their promises to deliver these programs.”

Fried’s work has taken her across the globe, with trips to India, Japan, South Africa, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

“Before moving to New York, I lived in the Mission,” Fried said. “I love the 24th Street area. I really miss the taquerias and the Vietnamese food as well as the art galleries there. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good burrito in New York yet.”

For more information about Global Citizen, go to the website at

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