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This November, 70 young women from our CAMA alumnae network came together for a regional leadership summit in Lusaka, Zambia. Representatives of this pan-African movement of 120,000 leaders included CAMA’s national committee chairs from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Ghana.  As educated young women from marginalized rural communities, they are committed to supporting and learning from each other, and ensuring that this generation of vulnerable children can go to school, succeed, and lead change in their communities. 

CAMA's leaders came together to share their expertise, challenges and successes, discussing their work to end child marriage, support children with life skills, start businesses and social enterprises, access further education, and raise the resources to identify and build support networks around the ‘invisible’ children in their communities.  Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, CAMA has grown from a group of 400 graduates in Zimbabwe to an unstoppable force for change across the continent, bolstered by the support of global influencers like Prince Harry, who met the group in Lusaka on the 27th of November. Below are some of the countless leadership highlights from the meeting.

“Poverty was the accident that happened to us. What unites us now, and what we are creating today, is our purpose.” - CAMA leaders at the meeting in Zambia

The first Zambian Learner Guides

CAMFED and CAMA’s Learner Guide program was extended into Zambia earlier this year with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The program formalizes the support CAMA members provide to vulnerable children at their local schools, as well as their community advocacy and outreach, which ranges from providing study and life skills to financial literacy training, as well as sexual and reproductive health information.

A group of newly trained Learner Guides attended the meeting to share their experience and hear from their peers in other countries, discussing the challenges disadvantaged girls face in their home environments, which reflect on their ability to perform well in school.

Naomi, aged 20, described the urgency of her work as a Learner Guide: 

Five recently trained Learner Guides from Zambia

Five recently trained Learner Guides from Zambia. From left: Esther, Eness, Angela, Liana and Naomi (Photo: CAMFED/Anke Adams)

“I teach about early marriage, so that the girls are aware. In getting married early there are problems. Maybe a child can get married at 12 years old, she can get pregnant and she cannot conceive well, maybe she will even die.” - Naomi, CAMA Learner Guide in Zambia

CAMA leaders with CEO of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, Nicola Brentnall

CAMA leaders together in Zambia with CEO of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, Nicola Brentnall (middle right), who joined a day of meetings. 

Reaching invisible children

Angeline Murimirwa, founding CAMA member and CAMFED Executive Director - Africa, spoke at the gathering, discussing the young women's work in identifying and supporting out-of-school children.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, whose President, Prince Harry, is committed to supporting youth leadership, was the first donor partner to directly contribute to a “CAMA Fund” in recognition of the unrivalled expertise of young people with lived experience.

The Queen’s CAMA Commonwealth Fund helps CAMA members reach out to even more children beyond the radar of local schools and authorities.

"As CAMA we are not displacing existing safety nets. We are reaching invisible children with invisible needs. If our commitment on its own would be enough, every child would be in school.  But the need is so great, and new resources are crucial." - Angeline Murimirwa, CAMA leader and CAMFED Executive Director - Africa

Breaking new ground together

Many CAMA members grew up without female role models in professional positions, but have still gone on to launch successful careers. One source of their inspiration is Barbara Chilangwa, a former teacher, diplomat and permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education in Zambia. She invited CAMFED to Zambia, and today serves as Executive Adviser, and a huge inspiration to CAMA leaders.

At the event,  Ambassador Chilangwa was interviewed by Angeline Murimirwa about her remarkable achievements. She shared some advice with the young women of CAMA, saying: “I know it’s difficult, but if you dream big and aim at achieving your dream, nothing will stop you... But know there are no shortcuts, you have to work hard and earn it.”

CAMFED Executive Adviser, Barbara Chilangwa, in conversation with Angeline Murimirwa.

These fearless young women, not daunted by hard work, are blazing a new trail. They left the meeting full of exuberance and energy. Once stigmatized as a group of young women from poor, rural families, CAMA is now commanding respect and attention at local, national and international levels. They are the guiding light in CAMFED’s work to educate girls and empower women.

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