I believe in the power of popular song to change the world. And bless their hearts, so does UN Women, the new United Nations agency whose mission is to empower women and girls around the world.
More than two years ago, I approached them with a crazy idea: that their new organization needed a theme song. Even more crazy -- they agreed.
So I wrote the lyric, inspired by the incredible stories of women they have helped. I asked Graham Lyle ("What's Love Got To Do With It," etc.) to write the music, and he partnered with Somalian-British singer-songwriter Fahan Hassan.
One Woman was the grand finale of the UN Women launch ceremony on International Women's Day, 2010. By the refrain, all 1800 people in the General Assembly Hall were on their feet, singing "We Shall Shine."
The song was such a success that it was time for crazy idea #2: an all-star recording of the song. A "We Are the World" for women from around the world.
We lured veteran music producer Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club) on board. My pro-benefit music business, Hope Sings, took on executive producing. And then -- hallelujah! -- Microsoft, a UN Women partner, loved the project so much they put their support behind it.
Two years and 2425 emails later (those are only the ones I kept), "One Woman" is ready. On March 8th -- International Women's Day -- we release the song which we hope will touch the hearts of people everywhere and inspire them to get involved in UN Women's mission to end discrimination against women and achieve gender equality -- whether by buying the song or making a donation.
25 internationally-acclaimed artists cared enough about women to donate their talent and time to this song and to UN Women. They are:
Ana Bacalhau - Portugal
Angelique Kidjo - Benin
Anoushka Shankar - India
Bassekou Kouyate - Mali
Bebel Gilberto - Brazil
Beth Blatt - U.S.
Brian Finnegan - Ireland
Buika - Spain/Equatorial Guinea
Charice - the Philippines
Cherine Amr - Egypt
Debi Nova - Costa Rica
Emeline Michel - Haiti
Fahan Hassan - UK
Graham Lyle -UK
Idan Raichel - Israel
Jane Zhang - China
Jerry Boys - UK
Keith Murrell - UK
Lance Ellington - UK
Maria Friedman - UK
Marta Gomez - Colombia
Meklit Hadero - Ethiopia
Rokia Traore - Mali
Vanessa Quai - Vanuatu
Ximena Sarinana - Mexico
Yuna - Malaysia
They sing for these women:
- Cathy Eatock is an aboriginal woman and survivor of child sexual assault who pressed charges against her assailant despite resistance from her own community.
- Mayerlis Angarita, a survivor of the armed conflict in Colombia, is using the power of words and the recovery of collective memory as a healing mechanism for the ravages of conflict and as a tool to raise awareness of women's rights.
- After being attacked with a knife by in-laws, Shehnaz Bano filed a case under India's Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act -- a move that allowed her to escape the spiral of dowry-related abuse and likely saved her life.
Because, despite all the progress that has been made on women's rights, there is still a mountain left to climb.
- 7 in 10 women globally will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes, estimates say.
- 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
- On average, women are still paid 10-30% less than men. If women were paid as much as men, GDP would be 9 to16% higher in major developed economies; in developing economies, per capita income could rise by 14% by 2020.
- 925 million people go hungry every day. Supporting women farmers could reduce the hungry by 100 to 150 million people.
Who can explain the power of a song to move us? One Woman is built on simple words. The names of places around the world -- Kigali, La Paz, Jaipur -- the mere mention of which transports us. Short, declamatory phrases -- she makes a choice, lifts up her voice. She speaks her name, she lives without shame. Nothing fancy. But put those words over music, and hear them in the rich, distinctive voices of passionate artists and humanitarians from around the world, and they take on a magical, undeniable power. We hope that power moves the world on March 8 to do something as simple as buy a song.
We are One Woman,
Your victories lift us all
We are One Woman,
You rise and I stand tall
We are One Woman,
Your world is mine.
We shall shine.