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CAMFED, Campaign for Female Education

Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 2021

Founded in 1993 by Ann Cotton, CAMFED - the Campaign for Female Education - is a pan-African movement which invests in girls’ education, led by a sisterhood of young women with first-hand experience of the barriers to girls’ inclusion. Through collective, grassroots action, CAMFED has already supported more than 4.8 million children to go to school across Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and millions more students have benefited from an improved educational environment across more than 6,700 partner schools.

CAMFED promotes systemic change aimed at addressing the exclusion of girls and women from the opportunities offered by education. It does so through the leadership of the CAMFED Association (CAMA) –an organization created in 1998 by the first 400 beneficiaries of the Campaign for Female Education— in partnership with rural communities, employing four different approaches: equity and social justice (education as a fundamental human right that should not be denied to girls and women), economic development (reinvestment in disadvantaged communities), young women’s leadership (changing socio-cultural norms, protection and empowerment of marginalized girls), and action against climate change (transition towards climate-friendly practices and reduction of future carbon emissions).

However, the main characteristic that makes CAMFED stand out from other organizations of the same type is the implementation of a model that not only provides marginalized girls access to education, but also supports them in the transition to adult life and fosters new business opportunities for job creation and income growth in rural areas. Thanks to its network of more than 178, 000 leaders educated with CAMFED support, the number of CAMFED beneficiaries continues to grow, as each past recipient of a scholarship mentors and financially supports an average of three more girls to stay in school. In his article “Choose a Gift That Changes Lives”, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof described this dynamic as “a perpetual motion machine... a virtuous cycle that grows over time”.

CAMFED’s programs, led by CAMFED Association members, include the Learner Guide Program and the Transition Guide Program, whose goals are to deliver life and learning skills in school, and support graduates into independent livelihoods beyond school, including in climate-smart agriculture. Thus young women farmers are helping to provide nutritious school meals, protect biodiversity and incorporate Indigenous and innovative technologies to reduce pollution. CAMFED has recently declared its commitment to provide primary and secondary education to another five million girls, enable a safe path to vocational training and employment for 280,000 women, and support female entrepreneurs in the creation of another 150,000 jobs by the years 2021-2025.

Awarded the Yidan Prize for Education Development (2020), the Nicholas Kristof Holiday Impact Prize (2020), and OECD Recognition for Taking Development Innovation to Scale (2014), among other recognitions, CAMFED’s approach to supporting young women climate leaders was distinguished with the 2019 United Nations Global Climate Action Award at COP25 in Madrid (Spain).

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