Two-time Grammy winner Shakira is as passionate about child advocacy as she is about her music. “I began my work as an advocate at the same time that my career was beginning to take off internationally, when I was 18,” she says. “Both music and advocacy are a calling to me.”

NUMBERS DON'T LIE: With two children of her own, Shakira knows just how important education is to early development. Being from Colombia, she knows just how scarce educational access can be. Photo: Kayt Jones

From the roots

Living in Colombia was critical to her decision to focus on children. “Growing up in a country where inequality was so rampant drew me towards education as my cause,” says Shakira, “Because it is truly the great equalizer and the surest path to eradicating poverty.” She continues, “I began by building schools in my own country, Colombia, but the more research I read, the more I realized that early childhood education and development were going to be crucial in ensuring that these kids could enjoy success and reap the benefits of the education we were trying to provide.”

SHAKIRA, SHAKIRA: Between shows, Shakira also works toward building schools in some of the poorest areas of Colombia, Haiti and South Africa to create greater access to early education. Photo: Xavi Menos

Leading the world

While Shakira puts her energies toward building “state-of-the-art schools” in the poorest parts of Colombia as well as Haiti and South Africa, that's only the beginning. “We build early childhood education (ECD) centers throughout Latin America through public-private alliances that we forge with the local governments and NGOs, and we also advocate on a policy level to urge governments to dedicate more of their budgets to ECD.”

The next generation

As a mother, Shakira is also ensuring her children Milan and Sasha understand the importance of helping all children benefit from a better education. “I want them to know not just that they are fortunate to have what they do, but that they have the power and the duty to help others enjoy the same.”