For the last four years, the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation has selected musically talented youth from across Manitoba to write and record a song dealing with international development issues.
This year’s song, titled Won’t Back Down, addresses the inequality and oppression many women face around the world. It was released as part of International Development Week from February 3 to 9.
One of this year’s participants was 16-year-old Dayle Kroeker-Tom from Westgate Mennonite Collegiate.
"I was in choir class and the teacher came in and announced that MCIC was doing a music video for women’s rights and anyone who felt strongly about it and had some musical talent should try out," he said.
"Me and my friend Paul Currie tried out and we both got in."
Sumeep Bath, spokesperson for MCIC, said the students included in the project are always a joy to work with.
"We love getting together the high school students because they’re so full of excitement and ambition," Bath said.
Kroeker-Tom plays several instruments, including guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. The opportunity to record in a professional studio was what first sparked his interest in the project.
"It was a good experience. It was nice to collaborate with other people," he said.
The song was written in two days in December. Before writing the song, the students spent a day researching global women’s issues.
"I didn’t really know anything about the topic so I thought it would be really good to learn about it," said Kroeker-Tom.
Kroeker-Tom and the other students studied the challenges facing many women in Africa, who are often among the most victimized groups in regional conflicts. Kroeker-Tom said the experience was enlightening.
"You hear a lot about these things, but it doesn’t really hit home, though."
The students broke off into two groups to write the song, with the girls writing the lyrics and the boys writing the music. Kroeker-Tom ended up playing bass on the finished recording.
Bath said it’s important to get students involved in learning about international development. "We find that if they produce something like the music video, it’s seen by other students and it’s a great way to engage those students as well," he said.
The project has made an impact on many of the past students who went through it. "It’s quite a formative thing. We still get messages and emails and posts on Facebook from past students from previous years," said Bath. "And that’s really heartening to hear."