January 17, 2017

Early years champion Shakira tells world leaders: 'Today's babies will drive tomorrow's business'

Shakira gives her speech at the 23rd Annual Crystal Awards in Davos

World Economic Forum

Elaine Hunter

Early childhood development writer

In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the singer-songwriter said investing in early childhood development is key to the future prosperity of children and society.

Pop star Shakira has made an impassioned plea to world leaders to look after the development of our youngest children. 

"Today’s babies will drive tomorrow’s business,” she said at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Children’s capacity to contribute will shape tomorrow's societies, will solve tomorrow's problems."

Shakira meets children who are part of the Barefoot Foundation

Fundación Pies Descalzos

Shakira - who is a member of the influential Education Commission - made an impassioned speech yesterday on the importance of early childhood development when she accepted the World Economic Forum's Crystal Award for her humanitarian work.

And today, at a special question-and-answer session on education and early years learning at the Davos event, she said everyone can make a difference by raising awareness through social media.

The singer-songwriter has championed education and early childhood development in her home country of Colombia and around the world.

During her Crystal awards speech, Shakira said: “The brain of a child who is nourished and nurtured, read to and played with, protected from factors like stress and conflict, has the best chance of developing its full potential.

"It's proven that children who receive proper care, nutrition and stimulation in the first five years do much better at school and in life."

Her comments echo the aims of Theirworld's #5for5 campaign, which urges world leaders to invest in early childhood development and ensure all children have access to essential nutrition, health, learning, play and care.   

Take Action

#5for5: Invest in early childhood development

By the end of 2017 world leaders must allocate the funds needed to establish quality early childhood development programmes so that every child is given the best start in life.

Sign the #5for5 petition

More than 200 million children under five fail to reach their full potential because of poverty, poor health, inadequate nutrition and deficient care. 

The Education Commission plan is for the international community to provide all children with access to quality early childhood development support and services by 2030.

Shakira warned that, without such action, being born into poverty could mean many children will never escape from it.

She added: "We should be devastated that, in 2017, there are still 250 million kids under five who are still at risk, who will likely be stunted physically and intellectually.

“Now take that in for a second. We’re talking about nearly the population of an entire country the size of the US. This is a tragedy for those children and an epic, epic failure for all of us.”

As a member of the Education Commission, Shakira is one of a group of world leaders, policy-makers, researchers and influential figures who are working together to tackle the lack of funding for education.

In its Learning Generation report, it recommends that every child gets two years of free, quality preschool. Shakira met commission chair Gordon Brown in Davos to discuss the group's next steps.

She was also a leading support of Theirworld's #UpForSchool petition, which saw her hand over 10 million signatures - demanding that every child gets an education - to the United Nations in 2015..

Shakira with the #UpForSchool petition book in 2015

Theirworld

And as the founder of the Barefoot Foundation (Pies Descalzos), she has worked to provide underprivileged children in Colombia with access to quality education

Shakira used her speech to call on leaders to act now to ensure every child has access to early years development.

She added: "In this room there are some of the most powerful people in the world - and definitely I'm convinced you know what it means to be ahead of the curve.

"We need to apply the brains and strategies of business and the assets and human resources and talents of your companies to do social good and to solve social problems."

The World Economic Forum also gave Crystal Awards to violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who runs a foundation providing scholarships for young musicians, and actor Forest Whitaker, who has worked as a global advocate for peace, focusing on empowering youth as leaders and entrepreneurs in communities touched by violence and poverty.

At the session today - titled An Insight, An Idea with Shakira - said: “I hope it’s a reflection of the global understanding of the importance of investing in early childhood development. I hope it means that the issues will come top of mind for everyone."

The Barefoot Foundation was founded by Shakira when she was just 18

Fundación Pies Descalzos

She said that growing up in Colombia she was aware of deprivation and violence. As a child, her father had taken her to see poverty first hand. She added: “It marked me forever, I never forgot that night. It made me want to do something about it."

Shakira called on ordinary people to get involved in raising awareness of early child development. 

“You don’t have to be a politician, a singer or a model to bring attention to these issues," she said. "Anyone can share thoughts on the internet, can share literature on the issue.”

You can watch the full session here.

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