Chime for Change: Women's voices, loud and clear: A star-studded concert returns feminism to centre stage

 

"Who runs the world? Girls!" sings Beyoncé, the 21st century's answer to Germaine Greer. Last night girls did run the world, or at least 100 square feet of Twickenham Stadium.

In truth, around the world women earn on average 20 per cent less than men. They perform 66 per cent of the world's work, but receive only 11 per cent of the world's income. We might run the world, but we're certainly not reaping the rewards.

Yesterday, the campaign Chime for Change brought female empowerment to the world in the form of a concert, the Sound of Change Live, billed as a "feminist Live Aid" and broadcast to more than 150 countries across the world.

Chime for Change, founded by Gucci's designer Frida Giannini, and her friends Beyoncé and Salma Hayek, focuses on improving education, health and justice for women around the world.

Quite aside from raising over $4m (£2.6m), which will fund approximately 200 projects in 70 countries, yesterday's concert, attended by more than 50,000 people, also put issues such as genital mutilation, domestic violence, maternal death and adult illiteracy on the news agenda. Oh yes, and Beyoncé was playing.

As I stood, crammed on to a train bound for Twickenham in south-west London, Beyoncé's appearance was mentioned no fewer than 14 times. "You can't deny Beyoncé is the main attraction," said Jessica Leadham, 22.

The stadium was decked out with posters bearing the Chime for Change slogan. "Education, health, justice. For every woman. Every girl. Everywhere."

"It's for women, isn't it?" said Sophia Bailey, 16, as she pointed to a poster, exclaiming: "I've just realised what it's all about!"

The crowd was predominantly made up of groups of women: sisters, mothers, daughters and best friends. Sharon Prentis, a self-proclaimed "old-school feminist", was there with her 17-year-old daughter. "It's great to see the next generation interested in feminism. We're taking back something that was lost," she said. Esterina Hoxha, 23, from Kosovo, admitted the cause was "pretty cool". "It's a woman thing," she said. "I'm not dependent on men. Except for my Dad!"

Besides Beyoncé, the pop stars Jessie J, Rita Ora, Haim, Ellie Goulding, Jennifer Lopez and Florence Welch took to the stage to champion the cause. Jay-Z even put in an appearance, performing "Crazy in Love" with his wife Beyoncé.

Other celebrity endorsements came from Madonna, Katy Perry, Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, who all feature in videos explaining why they support the movement, making Chime for Change seem like a grown-up version of girl power.

Beyoncé wants to use her profile as a platform to support women from all backgrounds. It's hoped that her status as a glamorous yet caring female role model will put the bra-burning, man-hating feminist cliché to bed and inspire young girls to find out more about feminism, ushering in a new generation of sassy feminists in high heels and lip gloss.

Twenty-three-year-old Sarah Foakes thinks the concert will inspire girls who might not otherwise be interested in feminism. "At the moment feminism is associated with bad things," she said. "Maybe people will leave here with a more positive message."

When I asked one audience member what she thought of the cause, she replied: "Oh, are the Corrs playing?"

But, as I watched women of all ages talking, singing and laughing, I realised the reason people had bought their tickets was irrelevant. As 21-year-old Hollie Ambrose summed up: "It's all about female empowerment and that's what matters."

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