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It was practically inevitable. You surely saw Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” dance at some point this summer. Besides being featured at the World Cup 2010 opening and closing ceremonies, the Colombian singer’s African-inspired pop hit quickly dominated the internet and had its signature dance poorly imitated at parties - World Cup related or not - around the globe for months. I may personally have tried my hand (and hips) at the energetic step, thankful that everyone present would rather dance than grab a camera.
Shakira must have had some idea of how many of us would choose to stomp spasmodically around our friends’ apartments when she challenged her fans to upload videos of themselves dancing the Waka Waka and join the 1GOAL global education campaign. Shakira’s inspiration of the masses and integration of 1GOAL’s message with her own is another engine of change making doing good more mainstream and demonstrating the benefit that celebrity support can have for causes.
1GOAL seeks to attract massive popular support to strengthen its petitions to world governments to meet their Education for All commitments, especially the goal of offering all children free primary education of good quality by 2012. This was not a one-time gesture for Shakira. You can find in the news feed on her website - among the concert announcements and product release notices - stories of the singer/songwriter/dancer visiting schools in Africa to promote 1GOAL or selling t-shirts to support UNICEF and the Barefoot Foundation.
Her activities are less surprising to those who know that Shakira is much more than a musician and a dancer but also the founder of Pies Descalzos as well as its sister organization, the Barefoot Foundation, and the youngest person ever to become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Shakira started Pies Descalzos when she was only 18 to help children in her native Colombia, in particular the city of Barranquilla. Not only does Pies Descalzos provide educational aids, nutritious meals and social support to schools serving impoverished and displaced Colombian children, it has recently built and opened a new school to directly increase the quantity of children served. The Barefoot Foundation helps raise money for Pies Descalzos’ projects and lobbies governments around the globe to improve educational programs. As an advocate for global education reform, she was selected as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2003, joining the likes of Sir Roger Moore (James Bond to you and me) and Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan in campaigning to improve the lives of children worldwide. Some of Shakira’s ambassadorial achievements include co-founding ALAS, a coalition of advocates for early childhood development intervention in Latin America, and launching the Unite For Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign.
This international superstar turned her success and fame to good purposes, much as anybody might if as fortunate as she. Shakira gets special praise from me, though, for the way she invests her resources in the cause of children’s welfare. To promote the cause, she makes herself an intermediary between ordinary people, children in need of aid and the world leaders poised to make a difference. Rather than just calling for donations from supporters, Pies Descalzos and the Barefoot Foundation call for citizens to become teachers, lobbyists, heralds, and surrogate parents to stricken children. Shakira herself seems to spend as much time touring destitute schools and neighborhoods, government offices and NGO headquarters as she does stages and stadiums, so that she can personally listen and speak to children in need and those who would help them.
What can you do to get involved with Shakira’s efforts to improve the quality of global education? Join 1GOAL, go buy a Waka Waka t-shirt (or even a virtual Shakira shirt for your Sims), visit the Barefoot Foundation website and sign up for the newsletter, sponsor a child in Colombia, prod your friends and family to take a look, travel to Colombia to volunteer your skills and time, and even just learn the Waka Waka dance. Better yet, take a look at your own community’s education environment and figure out what you can do to help - not all of us have Shakira’s resources to devote to improving education, but motivating individuals to step up is a large part Shakira’s advocacy. In her words, "I trust that as time goes by, there will be more and more people who want to help those in need. When that happens, the world will definitely come to know peace."
Guest blogger Nikolai Stieglitz is an intern with the Case Foundation