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An International Women’s Day playlist from Malala and girls around the world

McKinley Tretler

McKinley Tretler

McKinley Tretler is communications manager at Malala Fund. She works to develop and execute Malala Fund’s messaging and media strategies.

For the last two years, Malala has published an International Women’s Day playlist on Spotify, featuring songs from female artists like Janelle Monáe and Quratulain Baloch. For her 2020 playlist, Malala asked young women and education advocates around the world to help curate it.

Malala publishes the playlist in partnership with Starbucks Foundation, one of Malala Fund’s Envoy partners. With their support, Malala Fund helps the local leaders in our Education Champion Network get more girls into school. In Ethiopia, Starbucks’s support will help create girl-friendly school environments. In Brazil, it will help activists working to improve resources, retention rates and girls’ access to education.

Malala Fund reached out to Assembly readers and the women part of our Education Champion Network for song suggestions. Some sent us songs that speak to social justice issues like workplace inequality or government mistrust. Others chose songs that made them feel powerful or want to dance. 

From Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Japan, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S., girls and women tell us about the songs they chose and why:


“The Mad Shepards” by Rophnan

“This reminds me of my childhood. I used to listen to a similar type of ‘washent’ (a culture instrument like the flute) on the TV. This is also inspired by a tribe in Ethiopia called ‘Kemissie.’ I can picture a little kid herding the cattle while listening to this song. Also, around the end of the song he recites the Amharic alphabet, like how we used to learn it in school.” — Bettie Dessie, 20, Ethiopia

“No One” by Alicia Keys

“I love this song because it speaks about the power of self-determination. It is a song that lifts my spirit.” — Peace Ayo, 16, Nigeria

“Ella” by Bebe 

“I like this song in Spanish because it talks about how strong a woman can be.” — Melanie Dantés, 18, Mexico

“Collateral Damage” by Burna Boy

“This song summaries my frustration for my country, Nigeria, and why I advocate for the issues I do.” — Kiki James, founder of ACE Charity and Malala Fund Education Champion, Nigeria

“Your Wings” by Lauren Daigle

“[This song] makes me feel safe and happy as I go through my daily tasks because they let me know I have a God watching over me, protecting me and encouraging me.” — Bawi, 18, Myanmar

“Samba Presidente” by Daniela Mercury

“In ‘Samba Presidente’, Daniela Mercury, a renowned female Brazilian singer, LGBT and human rights activist, exalts the most well-known Brazilian musical genre, Samba, and highlights its power as a voice in the defense of social causes.” — Ana Paula Ferriera de Lima, coordinator at ANAI and Malala Fund Education Champion, Brazil

"행복 (Happiness)” by Red Velvet

“This song encourages me a lot recently especially since I'm living in a dorm, far away from my family, at my college. The lyrics are about how there are lots of smiles and things that are enjoyable even when you are so stressed that you can't even care about yourself, and that if you smile everyone becomes happier.” — Kanon Nakajima, 19, Japan

“Rise up” by Andra Day

“I really like this song because as an individual, I believe no matter what life throws at you, you should always have the courage to rise up and be better.” — Hauwa Mohammed, 17, Nigeria

“Da Law Etsab” by Amr Daib 

“The song talks about a beloved person. This song means a lot to me because if I left my love I would also feel lovesick.” — Hiba Hamzi, coordinator at ANAI, Malala Fund Education Champion 

“青花瓷 (The Blue And White Porcelain)” by Jay Chou

“This is a really beautiful Chinese song with very poetic lyrics. I love listening to it when I do homework since it calms me down and brings me a peaceful time.” — Louisa Wang, 18, China

“Back to Beautiful” by Sofia Carson ft. Alan Walker

“I love this song because this song is trying to say that there is no need to cover up our flaws or feel shamefaced. On the other side, it is about how people judge each other that should be stopped.” — Froohar Momtaz, 17, Afghanistan

“The Man” by Taylor Swift

“I like this song because it shows how Swift represents the imbalance in workplace success based on one's gender. This song inspires many people, including myself, to take action in support of feminism.” — Anya Sen, 11, U.S. 

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten 

“After high school, during my early months at university, I was having a very tough time adjusting. Everything was new, I couldn’t make many friends, I was missing my school friends so badly. Also, it was the first time I had to take up a responsibility to study hard and all that. I still can’t exactly define all the emotions I was feeling then, but it was horrible. There were certain minute things that lifted my mood. One was a ‘you are amazing’ sign that was written on the advertisement board of a beauty parlor that I used to see on my way to university and another was these songs. I felt a positive vibe filling in me whenever I heard them. Maybe I am just too dramatic, but I owe a lot to [this] song.” — Aleena, 19, UAE

Brisa” by IZA  

This is a song to dance and rejoice in. There is no way to listen and not move! Let’s be happy!” — Gabrielle, 20, Brazil


To listen to Malala’s International Women’s Day 2020 playlist, click here.

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