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Girls & Women

T Swift’s powerful Grammy speech steps it up for girls and women

Taylor Swift won the Best Album of the Year at last night’s Grammy Awards. The win is considered an upset by many who saw Kendrick Lamar as the odds on favorite. But T Swift’s win isn’t what people are talking about today; it’s her acceptance speech.

The part that has people talking came after the obligatory thank yous to the collaborators and behind the scene folks on her album 1989.

"And as the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work, and you don't let those people sidetrack you--Someday, when you get where you’re going,  you will look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world."

This powerful statement is being taken as a shot at Kanye West. A final word in a longstanding dispute stemming from the 2009 Video Music Awards where Kanye interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech. Kanye had recently reignited the controversy through lyrics in his new song “Famous.” A section in the song goes: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why, I made that b---h famous."

It’s hard to see Taylor Swift’s rebuke of others claiming credit for her success as unrelated to Kanye. But, even if these words were a shot at her fellow artist, they are still a powerful message for girls and women around the world.

Girls around the world face cultural barriers to their empowerment. They face family members, religious leaders and political leaders who try to keep them out of schools. They face laws that put them at a disadvantage to their male peers. They face harassment, insults and marginalization. Yet women continue to thrive around the world.

T Swift’s pointed message should be seen as more than a response to a fellow artist, and instead as a rallying cry. Girls and women must be given the same opportunities as their male peers but their eventual success cannot be stolen from them. Girls and women –just like all people—rely on themselves to improve their lives and the lives of their communities.

Aid is essential for bringing stability and resources to a community, but the role the individual plays in empowering herself cannot be understated. Aid can help a community stabilize their food security or build a school but eating nutritiously, farming effectively or gaining high marks in the classroom is an individual’s success. Taylor Swift was given opportunities by record labels, producers, radio DJs and many, many others but her ability to capitalize is all her own.

The same can and should be said about people around the world. The first step is to make sure everyone has the same opportunities to succeed: schools, gender equality, electricity, food, etc.

So watch the video above and look past the Kanye controversy and see T Swift’s clarion call for the  empowerment of girls and women everywhere. When they have the same opportunities, girls and women around the world will be able to follow this call, succeed and look around, knowing that they are responsible for their own success.

When girls and women can do this, the world will be a better place. A place that is a massive step closer to ending extreme poverty.