Did you know that for every additional year that a girl attends secondary school, her income increases by 15 to 25 percent? Or that women and girls reinvest 90% of their earned income back into their families? How about the fact that women with post-primary education are five times more likely to know the basic facts about HIV/AIDS?
Can an education help fight poverty or prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS? Camfed believes it can. In fact, Camfed believes that investing in girls’ education and empowering young women with business and skills training is one of the single most effective ways to combat poverty and the spread of disease in rural, sub-Saharan Africa.
What is Camfed?
Camfed, short for the Campaign for Female Education, is an international NGO that operates in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 1993, Camfed is dedicated to eradicating poverty and fighting HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi. They do this primarily through educating young girls and empowering women to become entrepreneurs and community activists.
Camfed attacks the dual problem of poverty and infectious disease on three fronts: education, business training, and through the Cama Network.
Through their education program, Camfed identifies and assists girls like Winnie, enabling them to finish school without putting undue burden on their families. Girls who are educated are less likely to turn to exploitative pursuits and more likely to invest back into their families. To date, Camfed’s education program has put over 42,000 girls through secondary school by providing them with full scholarships. An additional 333,000 were helped with Camfed’s Safety Net Fund, which helps girls with education related expenses, such as books, bus fair, lunch, toiletries and a number of other items.
Winnie Farao is just one of thousands of girls helped by Camfed. When she was fourteen years old, Winnie’s parents were faced with a choice – either use their limited resources to support to buy food for their family, or send their daughter to school. Fortunately for Winnie, Camfed stepped in and helped her finish her education. Camfed paid Winnie’s school fees, but they didn’t stop there. Their support extended to uniforms, books, and even covered other items such as soap, bus fair, and anything else a girl might need to be successful. Today Winnie, who not only finished secondary school but also went on to get a college degree, works as a safety net manager for Camfed in Zimbabwe.
Camfed knows that when those girls come out of school, they will be facing a pretty desolate economic situation. That’s why Camfed offers a number of programs to help them become successful. The Seed Money Program provides young female entrepreneurs with business and economic skills training, peer support, grants and microloans – everything they need to get up and running and be successful. Over 10,000 young women have received training on how to manage money. With the help of Camfed, over 6,000 new businesses have been launched.
Beatrice is one entrepreneur who was helped by Camfed. Beatrice was unable to afford a high school education. She heard about Camfed from a friend and went to a meeting. Inspired, she received a loan to help her open her first business selling donuts. Unfortunately, neither her donut business, nor the banana selling business she started next, provided her with enough income to live year round. She received another loan to start her third business – renting bicycles. Bicycles were in high demand in her area and renting them was something that would provide her with an income year-round. She’s working with Camfed now to help her expand and grow her bicycle business.
Beatrice found Camfed through the Cama Network. The Cama Network is an ever-expanding network of African women who are interested in helping other women overcome poverty and succeed. In addition to networking, peer support and ongoing business and skills trainings, the Cama Network also runs a community health activist program. Cama is 14,000 members strong across the continent of Africa. 1,500 of those members have been trained as community health activists.
How You Can Help
Camfed has a number of ways that you can get involved. Simply signing up for their newsletter earns a girl in Africa a year’s worth of pencils. Host a screening of one of the two films about Camfed or try one of their other personal fundraising opportunities. Camfed can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
All photos courtesy of Camfed.