Colombian pop star Shakira met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 22 September and held a news conference on the importance of providing funding for early childhood development.
The 38-year-old singer, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund Unicef, also spoke on the devastating photo of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a beach of a popular Turkish holiday resort.
"It is without a doubt one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time and the image of that little boy washed up on the shore is a tragic one and one that we shouldn't ignore and shouldn't forget and it should humanize the plight of the refugees because children should not pay the price of war and because all of us have a responsibility today and we cannot escape it," she said.
The multi-Grammy award winning singer shared her experience of working in the field of childhood education through her charity The Barefoot Foundation. "We were at some point having a really hard time trying to keep kids in school because some of them had never received proper care, nutrition and stimulation in those first five years of their lives," she said.
"So they weren't prepared to learn and to absorb the information. That's when we realized that we were getting to these kids too late. That's when I was introduced to research on ECD (early childhood development) and the astonishing advances in neuroscience that blew my mind that show how ECD programmes affect the developing brain of a child. Of course, from that moment on, that became a priority to us in our foundation and that made all the difference in the world. It's a matter of putting children at the centre of the social and economic and political debate, and their needs. Children's basic needs such as care, nutrition and stimulation need to be a priority, need to become a priority over any other human investment."
Shakira, who became a Unicef ambassador in 2003, highlighted the importance of education for children and called on Pope Francis to add his voice to the cause. "Education is this opportunity that is essential and the most effective to achieve a peaceful world that is economically prosperous but also a stable world and I believe that this is what we all want. So I would say to the pope that he should add his voice to this cause of education, this cause for the children, which I think is fundamental to ending poverty in the world and to eradicate it completely," she said.