Why Shakira says there’s no limit to what girls can do

When you hear Shakira’s name (or when her catchy lyrics inevitably get stuck in your head), you may think of her as an international pop sensation, Latin American icon or stunning performer. But there’s a fourth characteristic to add to that list: philanthropist and advocate for education.

Shakira has been a champion of this work for over 20 years, dating back to the creation of her charitable organization Fundacion Pies Descalzos, which expands access to education in Colombia and Latin America. And now, she’s bringing her passion for philanthropy to the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Shakira joins 28 other incredible women as expert panelists who will help us determine which organizations will receive a grant to continue their work supporting economic empowerment for women and girls.

We grabbed the mic to ask Shakira a few questions about why this cause is so important to her. Put on your favorite Shakira hit, and read on. 

Your amazing philanthropic work has focused on education for kids. What is the biggest barrier that young girls face in getting a quality education?

Girls are too often vulnerable to gender-based violence, relied upon to care for others in the household, or lack access to basic facilities like running water or proper bathrooms that would allow them to attend school during menstruation. The irony is that investing in girls’ education has one of the best returns on investment that a society could ask for, and it creates real economic impact. If every girl completed 12 years of education, their lifetime earnings could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion. It’s not only about lifting girls up — lifting them up will do the same for entire communities.