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Strong Girl: Africa’s top women singers raise their voices to fight poverty

•       Arielle T, Blessing, Gabriela, Judith Sephuma, Selmor Mtukudzi, Vanessa Mdee, Victoria Kimani, Waje and Yemi Alade call for world leaders to act to act to empower girls and women

•                  Backed by Malala Yousafzai, Beyoncé, Danai Gurira, Arianna Huffington, Shonda Rhimes

An outstanding line-up of top women musicians from across Africa have joined forces with ONE to create a brand new song called Strong Girl, a rally cry to empower girls and women everywhere.

Nine artists from seven African countries came together in South Africa earlier this month to write and record the track. They were joined by Nollywood superstar actress and activist Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, who stars in the Strong Girl video. The women are calling for action because poverty is sexist, and we won’t end it unless world leaders act now to help girls and women reach their full potential.

The campaign is backed by international activists, including girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, entertainer and entrepreneur Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, actress Danai Gurira,  cofounder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post and author Arianna Huffington and screenwriter, director and producer Shonda Rhimes, as well as thousands of ONE members worldwide. They are all showing solidarity by sharing a #strengthie – a selfie that pays homage to the iconic ‘Rosie the Riveter’ image of female empowerment and ‘We Can Do It!’ attitude. The track and video will be released on May 13, along with a global day of action amplifying the songs message and recruiting thousands worldwide to the fight for justice.

“I am fortunate to be a young woman living her dreams, a trailblazer of my generation,” said Omotola Jalade Ekeinde. “But I also recognize that many women and girls are not so fortunate; women and girls are disproportionately affected by the injustice of poverty and inequality. But when we invest in women and girls, we increase and accelerate the chances of overcoming extreme poverty.”

Bono, lead singer of U2 and ONE’s co-founder said: A band of phenomenal African women have taken control of the mic to tell the world that poverty is sexist. For too long, the voices of African girls and women have been silenced. But there’s no muffling this track. A change has begun and ONE wants to be the wind at its back. It‘s a thrill to witness this evolution but also to cheer on these great artists as they take centre stage with a call to action the whole world needs to hear. We will never achieve that great global goal of ending extreme poverty if we don’t admit it- poverty is sexist – and demand policies which deliver equality.” He then joked, “I suggested doing backing vocalsthey didnt take me up on the offerinstead they asked me to write the press releaseso here I am.

Danai Gurira, activist, award winning playwright and lead actress from The Walking Dead is backing the campaign by sharing a strengthie. She said: “Girls and women in the poorest countries get a raw deal.  It’s time for the world to stand alongside them and demand better. We must give every girl a chance to go to school and to live a healthy life.  And let’s knock down the barriers that prevent so many women from reaching their economic potential.”

This year, new Global Goals to end poverty will be set by world leaders. To be truly transformative, the goals must focus on the countries and the people that are worst off, and that includes girls and women. Evidence shows that investing in girls and women helps their families, communities and whole economies too.

Dr Sipho Moyo, ONE’s Africa Executive Director said: We must seize this opportunity to refocus the development agenda, and unleash the human, social, political and economic potential of women everywhere. Investments in health, education and economic empowerment can help remove the barriers that prevent so many girls and women from leading healthy and productive lives. Giving women the power and tools they need to improve their lives and take hold of equal opportunities means they can become catalysts to help end poverty.

On International Women’s Day, ONE published a policy report that revealed the scale of the gender gap in the world’s poorest countries, and how unlocking the potential of girls and women could transform lives.

Stressing the urgency of action in 2015, Roxane Philson, ONE’s Chief Marketing Officer said: “Its time to stand up for the girl denied an education or forced into marriage; for the mother threatened with death when she gives life; for the woman who isnt allowed to own the land she farms. This song and all of the support for it is a rally cry to world leaders to have the courage to stand up for the rights of girls and women everywhere.

ONE’s call to action is already backed by more 36 of the world’s most powerful women, including Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Lady Gaga, Angelique Kidjo and other leading women from the worlds of business, arts, politics and activism. They have written an open letter to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who both host crucial summits in the coming months that should set us on a path to agreeing Global Goals that put women’s empowerment at their heart.

ONE is a member of action/2015, a global citizens’ movement calling for pivotal change in 2015.