Shakira has become one of the world’s leading advocates for universal education, using her influence to urge governments to increase their spending on education in the developing world and inspiring young people to hear the "daily call to action" to help others for the cause. "…every child I’ve met living in extreme poverty has dreams of becoming either teachers, or doctors, or lawyers,” she said. “We all know that education is the key to unlock the talents of those kids and it’s a powerful tool to break the cycle of poverty." The Alma Awards will be broadcast on ABC network on Friday, September 12.
While accepting the award, Shakira surprised l7-year-old Pamela Jimenez Cardenas who was seated in the audience, citing her as an example to all young people for her work on behalf of education and inviting her to the stage to accept her own Humanitarian Award. As the Chair of the Global Campaign For Education, Shakira met Cardenas while lobbying the US Congress on the Education for All Act. She praised Cardenas "magnificant" presentation on Capitol Hill and called her "a role model for all of us." In presenting her with the award, Shakira said, "She is an example of a generation that believes that every child should have access education. But, she not only believes that, she has decided to do something about it. I would like to present this award to Pamela Jimenez for being an inspiration to her peers and to all of us that you are never too young to get involved."
Shakira's philanthropy and advocacy are focused on universal education and early childhood development (the health, nutrition and stimulation of children who are not yet in school). She is a UNICEF Ambassador and Chair of the Global Campaign For Education.
In Colombia, Shakira's foundation (Pies Descalzos) focuses on funding and implementing projects that address all aspects of education-from school feeding to school construction. Shakira funds projects that prove that quality education can be provided to the world's most vulnerable people. Her experience with these projects informs her global advocacy.
Across Latin America, Shakira helped form ALAS (América Latina En Acción Solidaria) which is a coalition of artists and business leaders who are urging governments and philanthropists to increase their spending on early childhood development. These programs ensure that children enter school ready to learn. ALAS recently announced that it had secured over $200 million in new commitments, and it will have an additional event in NY on September 24th during the United Nations General Assembly with multiple heads of state where further commitments are announced.
Shakira’s Barefoot Foundation (based in the US) works to advocate for donor governments (particularly the G-8) to increase their spending on universal education programs in the developing world. In this role Shakira recently visited Bangladesh to meet with government and NGO officials to learn how that country is proving education to its most vulnerable children. In April she visited Washington, DC where she met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and urged congress to pass the bipartisan Education for All Act that would help pay for education for the 72 million children worldwide who are too poor to go to school. She also held a conference call with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown with media around the world to discuss the need for a global response to universal education.