Camfed, the international nonprofit tackling poverty and inequality in five African countries, supports the educational aspirations of those countries’ most marginalized girls. Founder, Ann Cotton, won the 2014 WISE Prize for Education.
In Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) works with local communities to identify the most impoverished girls and provides a way to support them while including their parents in the process. I recently spoke with Brooke Hutchinson, co-executive director of Camfed, to learn more.
Black Enterprise: What’s unique about the work of Camfed?
Hutchinson: All of our team members in Africa are nationals of the countries in which they work, and they are all experts in development, entrepreneurship, and education. One of the unique things about Camfed is that much of the leadership—including the Regional Executive Director for southern Africa and our National Director in Zimbabwe—were first supported by Camfed.
Black Enterprise: Why is Camfed so effective?
Hutchinson: Camfed recognizes that just giving a girl a scholarship or training a teacher isn’t enough to support girls’ education, so we partner with communities and families to create networks of support around girls.
Poverty, not culture, is the number one barrier keeping girls out of school. We work with communities to identify the girls in the most marginalized, poorest rural communities, and we work with governments to identify those communities.
In addition to material support, we provide psycho-social support, which has been critical. Building a network around the girls is what makes Camfed so successful. The girls are not just in school—they’re maximizing their opportunity because of the network of support. Then they’re launched out into the world—not with a “good luck!”—but with that network of support in their communities.
Camfed continues to partner with them as well, providing opportunities to go on to higher education through grants, loans, business training, financial literacy, and through opportunities to give back to their community.
We also have a 55,358-member strong alumnae network, CAMA, leading Camfed. This was an organic evolution.
Black Enterprise: How are the community’s choices vetted? It seems that there could be room for corruption.
Hutchinson: Camfed truly enforces its grassroots program. We don’t concentrate power in just one person. A school committee—not a Camfed-created structure—made up of teachers, parents, and increasingly, CAMA members, selects girls for support. It uses set criteria determined by how the committee defines need.
For example, the girl could be an orphan or living with an elderly caregiver. The criteria is open and transparent. This public process combats any potential for corruption. There is additional oversight at the district level and the national level.
For more about Camfed and to donate, visit its website.