Shakira, United Nations Advocate for Universal Education for Children


Grammy-award winning music star and UN goodwill Ambassador Shakira joined a UN conference led by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to highlight how crucial it is to fund early childhood development. The singer explained that education is a universal right for children across the globe.

During the press conference, Shakira explained how adverse living conditions and sociopolitical conflict hamper the physical and cognitive growth of children:

“More than 100 million children are out of school and 159 million boys and girls under five are physically and cognitively stunted due to a lack of care and proper nutrition,” she said. “Every year that passes without us making significant investment in early childhood development and initiatives that address these issues, millions of kids will be born into the same cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity.”

Shakira mentioned the photo of drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, whose body ended up on a Turkish beach after a fatal boating accident. Shakira and other speakers related the importance of Early Childhood development (ECD) investment with the present Middle East conflict that affects millions of children and keeps them out of school. Shakira said about the gains of investing in (ECD):

“Investing in ECD boosts economic growth, it offsets inequality and it helps eliminate crime and violence,” said. She added: “If we invest in a child from its earliest years, we’re investing in his or her development and future success, not only in school but later in life.”

Shakira said children shouldn’t pay the price of war and that everyone is responsible for preventing this in the future. With so much brain development taking place in the critical five first years of a child’s life, the UN warns that one in every three children under five grows up in challenging environments and has their developing brains affected by poor dieting, stress and lack of cognitive stimuli.

Shakira highlighted the universality of education many times:

“Education is not a luxury, it’s a human right. A right to be human from the cradle that no one can take away from us. We must demand it.”

Her charity, The Barefoot Foundation, has confronted challenges and often unsolvable difficulties as they were trying to keep young children in school. Shakira emphasized that the right to education concerns everyone. She says the crisis is: “[A] moral subject. From a human point of view, we should give the same chance to all children.”

Early childhood development (ECD) seeks that the four basic children needs are met: safety and protection, health and nutrition, education, stimulation and care. Shakira said that these four pillars are essential in guaranteeing a better world and called for countries’ commitment in making this happen.