Graça Machel provides support and inspiration to Camfed’s alumnae leaders
Young women leaders from across Camfed’s pan-African alumnae network were honored and inspired to meet with Graça Machel in Johannesburg this week.
Mrs. Machel, the revered international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique, offered her support and advice to this extraordinary group of leaders, who are working closely with their communities to ensure this generation of vulnerable children completes secondary school.
“It was amazing meeting Mrs. Machel – a rural woman who went on to champion social justice for others. She told us that the value of a girl is priceless. No one else can write my life like I can. I am unique. And I must respect myself to command respect. This is something we must pass on to all other girls,” said Talent Takoda, who, though once too poor to afford pair of shoes, was rich in her passion and determination to succeed, and is now a medical doctor saving lives in rural Zimbabwe.
“The concept of poverty is attached to material belongings – if you internalise it, you kill the spirit,” said Mrs. Machel. She spoke of growing up in rural Portuguese East Africa (modern-day Mozambique), supported by parents who insisted girls’ education was as important as boys’. Mrs. Machel charted an inspirational personal journey which led to her being one of the most revered humanitarians and human rights advocates in the world, as well as a passionate politician, mother and grandmother. “My mother was illiterate but she made sure we went to school. This is the wealth I have from my family; this is the wealth all of us in this room have. It is priceless.”
Angeline Murimirwa, a founding member of CAMA and now Camfed’s Regional Director, introduced all of the CAMA leaders, many of whom met face-to-face for the first time. Camfed’s alumnae network is now over 33,000 strong, projected to grow to more than 130,000 by 2019. “We always say in Camfed that the greatest resource we have for education is the love and support from families and within communities. And our CAMA members are spreading this wealth even further.”
After sharing stories of their lives and aspirations with Mrs. Machel and each other, CAMA members participated in a lively debate and Q&A session with the woman who is one of their biggest role models. Now they are more determined than ever to rewrite their narrative, see the wealth in the support networks in their communities and each other, and build a global network.
“Social change is built by movements and you are an important seed of a huge social change,” Mrs. Machel told the young women. “Use your example to influence others, shout loudly about your stories, and connect with others. This is the first time you saw this face but it won’t be the last. I will come back to you to ask you to build similar movements in other countries, and you are more than welcome to Mozambique.”