Rachel Ashley, 17, knows the important of perseverance and of taking a stand.
The budding singer-songwriter from Graysville also knows the power of music to heal, inspire and send a message.
"Growing up I was bullied, like really badly," she recalls. "When I turned to music, I could push the negative away and I found I could release my thoughts and feelings."
Last November Ashley launched her anti-bullying No Time for That Tour, taking her musical message of hope and empowerment to some 30 schools across Manitoba. She plans to visit about 40 more before the end of May.
Now the Miami School Grade 12 student has joined forces and musical talents with a group of like-minded teens to spread awareness about gender inequality around the world.
The medium is a music video titled Won't Back Down and their message is female empowerment:
"Speak up, it's time to be heard/Happiness, freedom, peace around the world," goes the chorus of the pop-rock tune. "Stand up, fight for what we deserve/Together we won't back down."
The Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC) selected seven students from across the province last December to collaborate on the music video as part of celebrations for International Development Week (Feb. 3-9). MCIC, a coalition of more than 40 organizations, distributes provincial government funds earmarked for international development. Its mandate is also to promote local understanding of global issues.
This is the fourth year Manitoba high school students have hit the recording studio as part of the I Am Making a Difference campaign, says MCIC executive director Janice Hamilton. "It's always amazing to see what the students can create in a very short time."
Creating Won't Back Down was a two-day crash course in rock stardom for Ashley, Manuel Candaele (Collège Béliveau); Paul Currie (Westgate Mennonite Collegiate); Dayle Kroeker-Tom (Westgate Mennonite Collegiate); Madelaine Lapointe (Sturgeon Heights Collegiate); Sharlene Nicole Mabasa (Saint Boniface Diocesan High School); and Bailey Meyers (Stonewall Collegiate).
"We finished writing the song, recorded it and shot the video, all in six hours," says Ashley. Watch the video below or listen to it here.
Madelaine Lapointe, 16, who plays piano, trombone, saxophone and guitar, says that besides giving young musicians a chance to showcase their talents, the music video raises awareness about challenges faced by girls and women at home and around the world.
"It's very important to send a strong message for women not to back down and to fight for what they deserve," says Lapointe.