Shakira talked about the importance of education, described the nature of her charity work and outlined plans for the future in a speech delivered to the packed chamber in the Oxford Union today.
The 32-year-old Colombian singer started by apologetically admitting that there will be no “singing or hip-shaking” and went on to describe her strong belief in the “democratisation of education” as a tool to break the cycle of poverty.
She said, “I cannot subscribe to the idea that the older days were better days. I strongly believe that the best is yet to come. With the universal access to education to feed our collective intelligence with our commitment to lead and organise in places like this with students like you…we can be so close to create a network of intellect, enormous think-tank.”
The two-time Grammy Award winner explained that this conviction stems from her own experience.
“When I was eight years old I saw my parents undergo bankruptcy. I remember it as if it was yesterday. We returned home, all of our furniture had gone, the big colour TV was now a small black and white one, our cars were gone. I couldn’t understand why it was happening.”
She added that in order to gain perspective her father showed her orphans sniffing glue in the park. This experience was a catalyst in setting up the Barefoot Foundation at the age of 18, when Shakira first achieved international success.
The foundation funds the building of schools and community centre
s, as well as providing food, because “nobody can learn on an empty stomach”.
Shakira also stressed her strong belief in a better future and emphasised that she likes “to make things happen”.
She said, “So tell me, how many things that are inconceivable today will be obvious tomorrow? How will society be structured? Will it still be organised in couples or communities or governments, presidents and prime ministers….? Will we eat junk food without gaining weight….I’d love that!
“We have achieved so much due to one concept: the democratisation of education.”
The singer also talked about the importance of Millennium Development Goals.
“Nine years ago as part of Millennium Development Goals, governments from around the world made a pledge so that every child has access to primary school by the year 2015.
“Sadly, their promises have not been met with actions. Sadly, with the current pace of change we will not have access to universal education in a 100 years, let alone 5.
“That is un
She added, “We have the the resources to feed the people several times over, but why are children starving? We need to find more ways to distribute food. And education is our ticket.”
When questioned by Cherwell, Shakira described how her career provides a vehicle for her charity work. “I can make music for fun,” she admitted, adding that due to her career she meets journalists and politicians who listen to her views. She also added that although she has seen “very little” of Oxford she finds it “beautiful” and is privileged to address such “smart people”.
Lou Stoppard, the Union’s Secretary, commented, “It was amazing…I thought it was nice that she addressed something serious…she was very
Hannah Cusworth, Guest Liaison Officer added, “What I find most upsetting is that she is a multi-million selling artist but she is more eloquent than I am.”
James Dray, Oxford Union’s President commented, “As someone who has spent many happy nights dancing to Shakira’s music, I’m delighted Shakira could come to the Union and give such an inspiring talk on how we in Oxford can make a difference to the lives of the poorest. The Oxford Union has a proud history of hosting some of the most revered musicians in the world, and I’m delighted to be able to add Shakira to that list.”
He added, “Her warmth and compassion towards children in her home country, without access to the education which we take for granted, evidently struck a chord with the hundreds of young audience members who gathered to hear her speak. We wish her the very best for her future fundraising and activism, and of course all her musical collaborations to come.”