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To coincide with the Day of the African Child on 16 June 2018, Camfed is announcing the launch of an ambitious project to train hundreds of young women in rural Zambia as ‘GirlGuardians’ to protect more than 16,000 girls from child marriage and keep them in secondary school.

“Our work is about removing barriers to education for marginalized girls in rural Africa. One of the most pressing issues is child marriage, with its devastating impact on a girl’s health, education, independence and opportunities. Child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty.  GirlGuardians will be at the forefront of averting this crisis, and breaking the cycle.” — Lucy Lake, CEO, Camfed International

The news follows an announcement earlier this year that Camfed had raised a total of £2.78 million through its first UK Aid Match appeal, which ran in the last three months of 2017. This is thanks to an incredible response from the UK public and the pound-for-pound match of £1.33 million made by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Camfed’s UK Aid Match appeal highlighted that in some parts of rural sub-Saharan Africa, 6 out of 10 girls are married before the age of 18, some as young as 13. When families are destitute, marriage can seem like their daughter’s only chance of future security.

But rather than protecting a girl, early marriage puts her at grave risk of physical violence, HIV/AIDS, and serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth. It locks down her future and denies her the chance to fulfil her potential and break the cycle of poverty for good.

Camfed’s unique solution comes in the form of ‘GirlGuardians’ -- members of the Camfed alumnae network (CAMA) who have lived experience of poverty and marginalisation, and were often destined to become child brides themselves. They understand the importance of completing secondary education as a route out of poverty.

Camfed alumnae (CAMA) leader Alice stars in this video, illustrating the power of GirlGuardians. The other main character is Faith, one of the 10 girls Alice supports at school. All the girls in this video are Camfed scholars in Zambia; no actors were used.

“Since starting out 20 years ago, CAMA members have shared a commitment to bringing positive change to their rural communities. This new wave of ‘GirlGuardians’ will offer practical and emotional support to girls, clearing the way for them to finish their education.” —  Fiona Mavhinga, Director of CAMA Development 

The new ‘GirlGuardians’ trained under this initiative will identify girls in their communities who are vulnerable to early marriage, and work with families and local authorities to ensure girls receive the support they need to stay in school and succeed.

CAMA now has 120,000 members, all living proof that with education and support, girls become empowered young women who lead change in their communities. All secondary students supported by Camfed graduate into this powerful network, continuing the virtuous cycle.

Visit the UnlockFutures campaign page to find out more about our work to end child marriage.

Visit the Camfed in Numbers page to find out more about our impact.