"It is the culture of poverty, not the poverty of culture that keeps girls out of school" Ann Cotton said after returning from her 1992 visit to rural Zimbabwe to investigate why girls' access to education in rural areas was so low.
Her statement was prompted by the realization that the broadly-held notion that cultural resistance was not the main reason so few girls were going to school, but rather the surprising fact that family poverty was a more significant constraining factor.
This new realization begged the questions: "Could an economic solution unlock opportunities for addressing the widespread exclusion of girls from education?" and "Could it lead to economic, social and cultural benefits for rural Africa?"
The next year, in 1993, Ann initiated the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED). From the inauspicious beginnings by fund-raising at Ann's kitchen table CAMFED has grown to be an international NGO deserving of much respect and praise.
When CAMFED began its operations the first 32 girls were supported into school in two of the most impoverished districts of Zimbabwe. By 2004 the number of children has grown to over 71,000 children not only in some of the poorest regions in Zimbabwe but also in Zambia, Ghana and Tanzania.
And as this first group of girls was due to complete secondary education it created the urgent need to create post-school economic opportunities in their communities. Because without such post-school economic opportunities these educated young women would migrate to the cities and become vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation. In addition to these problems those girls would take the benefits of their education away from their rural communities.
In response to this secondary problem, the CAMFED Association (CAMA) was created in 1998. CAMA connects young females who have left school and provides them with post-secondary school training opportunities. The most crucial of these opportunities and training exist in the area of owning assets and managing money.
CAMA members can develop their activism and leadership to achieve positive social change by taking advantage of a structure that is provided by the organization.
CAMA has a membership of 4,700 today and those members are involved with structures that extend from village to district, national and pan-African levels. This success demonstrates the sustainability and efficacy of CAMFED's work.
CAMFED has a vision of a world "in which every child is educated, protected, respected and valued, and grows up to turn the tide of poverty."
CAMFED's mission in Africa is to multiply girls' access to education and accelerate the benefits to individuals, their families and communities. This is because in Africa girls have least access to education and are most vulnerable to negative impacts such as HIV/AIDS.
The organization's stated Principles demonstrates that they are committed to:
- Urgent action to tackle the problems facing today's children
- Respecting and co-operating with national institutions responsible for education
- Valuing and strengthening existing community institutions and structures
- Honouring the confidentiality of sensitive information gathered from individuals
- Enabling those who are excluded and marginalised, such as rural girls, to speak on their own behalf
- Measuring results by the quantifiable benefits to children and young people
- Being cost-effective and ensuring resources reach African communities in a way that is transparent and accountable to beneficiaries.
Based upon its Visions and Principles The Campaign for Female Education is dedicated to fighting poverty and AIDS in rural communities in Africa by educating girls.
The 4,700 young women who are supported through their education by CAMFED are now contributing to the social and economic regeneration of their rural communities. Among them are doctors, lawyers, teachers and businesswomen, all delivering the benefits of their education with their communities. Through these women CAMFED has been able to reach more than 427,300 people to try to improve the quality of their lives. The organization also had an income of £1,320,000 ($2,385,800) in 2004 to support these efforts. Those efforts resulted in:
- 71,333 children being supported in primary and secondary school
- 778 partner schools being supported and thereby improving the educational environments
- 333,600 community members receiving health information, business advice and school mentoring from CAMA
- 29 Community Development Committees being supported with training to promote girls' education in their communities
- 80 Mother Support Groups being supported with training and funds to sponsor the school fees and other educational costs of over 2,800 children (33% of whom were boys)
- 241 businesses being launched by young rural women in Zimbabwe in 2004, but a total of 534 businesses have been started, with CAMFED's support.
These statistics are not exhaustive of the work done by CAMFED or the benefits resulting from their work. You will have to visit their web site to get a more complete picture.
In recognition of the success of its operations in 2003 CAMFED was named the International Aid & Development Charity of the Year. Also, it was greatly honored by being given a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2005.
CAMFED is a non-governmental organisation with offices in the UK, Zimbabwe, the US and Zambia. The UK branch is the headquarters for CAMFED International and was established in 1993. CAMFED Zimbabwe, established in 1993; the U.S. branch, CAMFED USA Foundation was established as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization in 2001. The most recent addition is CAMFED Zambia, which was established in 2002. Plans are in the works to establish a branch in Tanzania in 2006 and also in Ghana, and Canada beyond that.
CAMA's Board of trustees is comprised of academics, filmmakers, corporate leaders, journalists, celebrities and African chiefs.
In order to carry out its mission, CAMFED partners with such organizations as:
The Global Campaign for Education
The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (where CAMFED sits on the Board) and Make Poverty History.
In addition to its partners CAMFED has major Statutory and Foundation Donors that include:
Big Lottery Fund
Development Co-operation Ireland
Sigrid Rausing Trust
UK Department for International Development
It would take longer than I have to write about all of the aspects of CAMFED's many programs. And I forewarn you that you will have to visit their website to get a full appreciation for what they are doing. However, I do want to touch just briefly on four aspects of their programs. These four programs include the Primary Education, Secondary Education, Economic Independence and Leading Change programs.
The primary education programmes provide the necessary materials to enable girls to attend school while respecting the constraints on families in the various communities. Working in partnership with parents and guardians, they provide school clothing , shoes and stationery to the girls.
In the Secondary Education programmes, CAMFED offers girls support to complete their secondary education. The costs of secondary education are far higher than those at primary level. And the CAMFED programmes provide assistance to girls who lack the means to attend secondary school until completion. The Secondary Education programmes provide: School clothing, shoes, stationery, books, school and examination fees. Besides the material support CAMFED provides Social support, including counseling and mentoring. Safe term-time accommodations are made available to girls who live too far from school to walk daily. Sanitary protection is also provided to enable girls to attend school regularly and confidently. And Health information including information on HIV/AIDS is provided.
CAMFED established Vocational Training Centres as one avenue to help provide Economic Independence to girls in three strategically located districts in northern Ghana. (There are, however, several other Economic Independence Programmes). At the centres, local staff provided training in fashion and design, information technology, carpentry, secretarial studies and catering. The trainees accepted into the programme are the most disadvantaged members of their community, including young women, unemployed young men, street children and people with disabilities. And CAMFED subsidizes their tuition to ensure they can attend.
The Vocational Training Centre graduates are provided with a "start-up grant, business training and the necessary equipment, such as a sewing machine, to start their own business in their rural communities. After successfully establishing their business, graduates are eligible to apply for a loan to improve or expand their rural enterprise." It has been the case that many graduates of the Vocational Training Centres have taken on apprentices, which multiplies the benefits of their training and creates further increase of expertise in their districts.
The Leading Change Programme takes advantage that the young women are assisted by CAMFED return to their home communities to work or start businesses. And established members of those communities they have the trust of their neighbors that is needed to tackle some of the most sensitive issues like human rights violations.
Human Rights is just one of several issues which are the CAMA's programmes. But to use it as an example, it is designed mainly to combat the problem of child sexual abuse. In order to do this, the women who have been assisted by CAMFED are attempting to break the silence surrounding abuse by uncovering its extent and exposing the level of disempowerment that keeps abuse hidden. Additionally they counsel victims and their families and advising them on their legal rights; challenge traditional practices that add to the vulnerability of girls to abuse; and they collaborate with the police, judiciary, social welfare, and related NGOs to raise awareness and promote joint action.
As I said earlier, there is a lot more programs and a lot more to read about at CAMFED, BECAUSE CAMFED IS DOING A LOT. Visit their web site to see what small beginnings can lead to.