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Ending the Poverty Cycle – It Starts With a Girl

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  • September 8, 2011
  • 11:30 pm
Ending the Poverty Cycle – It Starts With a Girl

NOTE: This is a guest post from Ann Cotton, the founder and Executive Director of Camfed International.

I’m inspired by being part of a transformative journey with young women in Africa — by seeing the change in a young woman who is quite shy, who doesn’t have a sense of entitlement, as she recognises that she has rights, and develops a sense of her capability. It inspires me to see young women become part of a virtuous cycle of change, to see the catalytic effect that they have on other women’s lives.

One of the first girls that Camfed supported when I launched the organisation 18 years ago, Angeline Murimirwa, is a fantastic example of the transformation that is possible when a girl is supported to pursue her goals. The daughter of subsistence farmers in rural Zimbabwe, Angeline struggled valiantly to stay in school even as a young girl. While at primary school, her parents couldn’t afford to buy her school supplies, so she volunteered to wash dishes for her teachers in exchange for pens. When she reached secondary school, fees and other school costs increased far beyond her family’s means, and her education nearly came to a halt. Happily, our paths intersected, and Camfed supported her to complete secondary school.

Today, Angeline is the Executive Director of Camfed Zimbabwe and she is passing on the benefits of her education to thousands of children and young women.

In her role leading Camfed Zimbabwe, she has helped send 227,906 children to school — children who would have otherwise been deprived of an education. Once those children graduate, Angeline connects them with economic and leadership opportunities, through the Cama network, the association of Camfed alumni. Cama trains young women as entrepreneurs, IT experts, and health educators, and links them to opportunities for higher education. Cama members in Zimbabwe — and across the African countries where Camfed works — are attending university, running their own businesses and working as lawyers, nurses, teachers, accountants.

Drawing on their financial resources, their skills, and their knowledge, Cama members play a powerful role for the next generation of girls. They serve as mentors and role models — reminders that they are not doomed to a life of struggle. Seeing young women from their communities transcend backgrounds of hardship and succeed is a tremendous inspiration to rural girls. Many of their mothers were deprived of a formal education, and have had very few life options. Cama members show adolescent girls that they can shape their own futures. They give them the confidence and the incentive to pursue their dreams when they graduate from school. And they are supported in those dreams. Cama members in Zimbabwe have sent 103,700 children to school out of their own pockets.

To think that this amazing cycle of change began with the education of a single girl — that inspires me.

I have seen, again and again, that change comes from within communities. Women have an emotional bond with the next generation. The role they play is to uplift society, and they pass that role on from generation to generation. If you enable them to play that role more effectively, they will astonish with you with their generosity, their compassion, and their ambition to create a better life for the next generation.

Ann Cotton is the founder and Executive Director of Camfed International, which is widely recognized as an example of best practice in girls’ education. Ann has won numerous awards for her work including an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Cambridge University and the Skoll and Schwab Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.

Camfed fights poverty and AIDS in rural Africa by educating girls and providing them with economic and leadership opportunities when they leave school. Since 1993, more than 1,451,600 children in impoverished areas of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi have benefited from Camfed’s innovative education programs.

Take Action! You can transform the life of a girl in rural Africa, sparking an incredible cycle of change, merely by ensuring that she receives the supplies she needs to stay in school. Visit the Camfed Back to School Shop to provide pens, notebooks, a uniform or a full scholarship to girls in rural Africa.

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7:04AM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

2:06PM PDT on Sep 13, 2011

BTW If you want to donate to help someone with education but want to choose who you help rather than donating to an organization in general---- check out you can choose an individual or group to donate to directly. or if you want to LOAn money to help an individual or group to start a bussiness or improve their life , check out

1:59PM PDT on Sep 13, 2011

PS in addition to suggesting reading HALF THE SKY , I want to reccomend another excellent book-- and organization that promotes education for girls-- (and boys too) in remote areas of Pakistan that had little or no access to education.


Central Asia Institute (they are building schools in Afghanistan too)

1:54PM PDT on Sep 13, 2011

HALF THE SKY will also give you info about how to make a difference to improve the lives of women world wide. CAMFED is one of many organizations mentioned in this book. So I say again that it is a great organization doing good and I support it . If you support it too or other organizations that aim to help women such as CARE, Women For WOmen INT., etc -- GOD BLESS YOU!!!
If you don't believe in helping women overcoem world wide oppression and gender bias, then support what ever causes you care about-- but do not berate us-- or call us sexists!

1:49PM PDT on Sep 13, 2011

TO ANYONE that does not understand why it is important to FoCUS on EDUCATIONG Girls-----It is not that boys should not be educated too---but that in many parts of the world girls/women are second class citizens often denied event he most basic of rights.

READ HALF THE SKY (Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide) by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

It will open your eyes to Modern day slavery, human trafficing, lack of choice in regard to sex, marriage, birth control-- lack of opportunities to go to school or any way to make life choices, lack of maternal health care- etc etc You will also learn about some women who have overcome great odds to not only improve their lives but the lives of others too.

1:28PM PDT on Sep 13, 2011

Wonderful story!! God bless all the people who make these successes possible. I believe this is a wonderful organization. I hope everyone that can will donate a little and spread the word.

7:02AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

thank you Great story indeed. hope camfed can help other African countries and help girls pursue their studies.

7:34PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

this was interesting to read, I know so many different opinions are posted on this matter however I will not say mine.

6:03PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

Suzann F- I think you are thinking of America in the 1970's! We are not perfect, and women still only get paid roughly 75% what men get, but by no means did I have to whore myself out to get an education, and my boss, a successful businesswoman, has 2 kids that are both in college, and she only needs to work part time to be well-off. All people in the U.S. get a free education through 12th grade. In many parts of the developing world, even elementary school needs to be paid for, and that's what we are fighting for- that girls in all countries should be able to go to school even if their parents can't afford it.

4:26AM PDT on Sep 11, 2011


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