“On my last day on this earth, I would love to be described as a ‘light in a sea of darkness’ which means that ‘hope can be found in a situation that is hard.’ I struggled to glow my own candle and now I am working hard to transform other people’s lives and produce many lights in a sea of darkness.” Natasha, Camfed supported graduate and CAMA member
Camfed (the Campaign for Female Education) It is a non-profit based in Cambridge, UK and founded by Ann Cotton 24 years ago. Ann wanted to understand why girls in Africa were missing out on going to school. She arranged a trip to Zimbabwe and, through meeting and talking with local people and traditional elders, came to understand that it wasn't cultural barriers that were limiting these girls' options but that poverty was the greatest obstacle. Lack of funds meant families had no option but to prioritise survival over education.
Ann decided to found an organisation to support the most vulnerable girls in sub-Saharan Africa to go to school. With a quality education as their foundation these girls would be empowered to make their own life choices and become leaders of change in their communities.
Without female role models in professional or leadership positions and with pressure on many young girls to get married early, millions of young women in rural Africa never attend school. Many have to head up households after they and their siblings are orphaned. The added pressures of having to manage their periods at school with no proper facilities and being obliged to make extra money for the family through doing odd jobs and manual labour often means they drop out of school even if they manage to complete a few grades of school.
Camfed's support goes beyond paying bursary fees and providing essential equipment. Camfed trains teachers to become mentors for the most vulnerable girls in their schools; organises school feeding programmes and parent support groups, and offers interest free business loans and training to graduates. Camfed is an entirely community run programme with the people who understand best the obstacles that girls face in rural Africa at the heart of the organisation.
With support offices in Cambridge and San Francisco Camfed programmes run in 5 African countries - Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Ghana. To date Camfed has supported over 1.8 million girls to go to school and improved the learning environments of over 4 million students. One of the most exciting things to have come out of Camfed's foundations is CAMA, the Camfed alumnae network. CAMA was set up by the first students supported by Camfed and is now 100,000 members strong. CAMA now supports double the number of children to go to school than Camfed's core programme.
CAMA's success, and the results that show that educated girls are more likely to marry later, earn 25% for every year in school, have smaller, healthier families and go on to support three more girls to go to school is testament to Camfed's sustainable model of change. Whole communities are benefiting from girls going to school, becoming graduates, professionals and business women. They plough back their education into their local communities and the economy, creating jobs and offering more young people the chance to go school and realise their dreams.
Every child should have the opportunity to learn and reach their potential. Girl children should grow up with the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Camfed is making incredible head way but with 28 million girls still out of school in rural Africa there is a long way to go before the playing field is levelled. By investing in girls and young women the future will be brighter for everyone.
Today is International Day of the Girl and Camfed is proud to launch our campaign #UnlockFutures that will support more girls to go to school and avoid the perils of child marriage. Every pound received to the #UnlockFutures campaign will be doubled by the UK government until the 10th of January 2017. Together we can end child marriage. Please help us protect girls by making a donation today. Thank you!
by Ellen Grant