Two thirds of the world’s illiterate people are female. Eight hundred women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth. In developing countries education is denied to enormous proportions of young girls -- but not their brothers -- as a matter of course. For most of us whom these facts depress, there is little to do but sigh wearily that we know, and reach into our pockets and donate a few dollars to a worthy charity.
But then, most of us are not Beyoncé.
This evening, at Twickenham Stadium in London, in a fund-and-awareness-raising gig so conspicuously modeled on the Live Aid gigs of the '80s that it even had Harvey Goldsmith promoting it, global pop royalty – including Madonna, J-Lo and Timbaland -- turned out to support Beyoncé's new campaign Chime For Change, which is backed by Gucci, and its ambitious call for equal rights for women and girls worldwide.
And to show that this really was the most special of special occasions, the man who put a ring on it, Jay-Z, even appeared on stage for a brief but insanely crowd-pleasing duet of “Crazy in Love.” And then, he kissed Bey on the lips, causing the global symbol of female empowerment to blush, roll her large eyes and even simper a little bit, proving that you can be a crusader for equality and a big softie, too.
As worthwhile as the lofty aims of the Chime for Change campaign undeniably are, lengthy diatribes from the likes of Madonna and Jada Pinkett Smith calling for equal rights to education (no opponents to that in leafy West London), an end to human trafficking, and long video clips of women talking about their experiences of sexual harassment, rape and being held in sexual slavery resulted in an uneven night of entertainment.
But this is often the way with charity gigs, and in between the lectures, which sometimes gave the event the feel of a student rally, the hits, when they came, were showstoppers: Simon Le Bon duetting “The Reflex” with Timbaland, and Florence and the Machine blowing the non-existent roof off with “Sometimes” were highlights. But it was Beyoncé's closing performance, and that duet with Jay-Z, that really made the night one to remember.
The Chime for Change charity was founded by Beyoncé, Salma Hayek Pinault, and Frida Giannini, and is being backed financially by Gucci. Giannini, as fashion insiders will know, is creative director of Gucci, and Salma is also a part of the high-end-goods world, being married to Francois-Henri Pinault of luxury conglomerate PPR, which ultimately controls Gucci as well as dozens of other brands such as Stella McCartney and McQueen.
The three women all have daughters and were moved to start the campaign when they became aware of the shocking disparity between the lives of their kids and those growing up in developing countries.
The event attracted a healthy quotient of celebrities in the VIP section including Pippa Middleton, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie along with their mother Sarah Ferguson, and the Zero Dark Thirty Star Jessica Chastain. All in all, 50,000 people attended the show, raising $4.3 million in ticket sales, which will fund approximately 200 projects in 70 countries around the world. Gucci underwrote the event so that ticket buyers could donate the value of their tickets (less VAT and service fees) to the nonprofit of their choice.
But on stage, as Beyoncé asked, “Who runs the world?” and the crowd boomed back, “Girls!” even the men present couldn’t hope but wish one day it would be true.