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This International Youth Day, we are celebrating the continuing engagement and action of our leaders in the CAMFED Association - young women educated with CAMFED support - as together we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s potentially devastating consequences for women and girls in Africa and globally. The lived experience and expertise of those once at the margins of society remains the keystone of our movement — as young women rally whole communities around the most vulnerable children and their families, providing and connecting them with the support and resources they need.

“With me in their corner, young women and girls in my community are hopeful for change. When it comes to supporting children, I don't compromise.” - Patience, CAMFED Association leader, Zimbabwe

From childhood Patience has had a keen understanding of the power of youth leadership. When poverty forced her to drop out of school, it was young women in the CAMFED Association who rallied together and raised the money she needed to return and sit her exams. After graduation, she joined this unique peer support network, which has continued to open up opportunities to her and tens of thousands of other young leaders.

Patience now works as a Core Trainer of CAMFED Association Learner Guides. She also runs a business and is studying for a degree in Information Technology and Software Engineering. Her digital knowledge has proved invaluable during the COVID-19 crisis; working together with other CAMFED Association members, Patience has been supporting out-of-school children in under-served, rural communities by downloading and sharing educational content through offline data sharing apps, as well as distributing physical reading materials and setting up small study groups.

Patience training other young people in computer skills

Patience spends her days at her local CAMFED Association Resource Center passing on her computer skills to other young people. Under her mentorship three other young women have taken up Information Technology (IT) related pathways. (Photo: Henric Ndlovu) 

Sophia on the maternity ward

Sophia, a CAMFED Association member and nurse midwife, on the maternity ward.

In Tanzania’s Morogoro district, CAMFED Association member and nurse midwife Sophia is working to provide additional support to expectant and new mothers. Every morning during hospital clinics, Sophia and her team members conduct health awareness sessions to help patients prevent the virus from spreading in their families and communities. Sophia also uses her knowledge to benefit her friends and relatives, connecting with them via WhatsApp or phone calls.

Strengthening health measures has also been at the forefront of CAMFED Association activism in Malawi. Core Trainers and Community Mentors in Mulanje, Phalombe, Machinga and Mangochi districts have continued visiting students to deliver face masks, provide sexual and reproductive health information and encourage girls to continue studying. 

In a context where the risks of early marriage and pregnancy were already high — and are only exacerbated in a crisis, when marriage is often seen as a coping mechanism — female mentorship has been shown to be transformative. This was highlighted in a recent NPR interview with CAMFED Association member Eliza.

With family incomes decimated by business restrictions and job losses, food insecurity has been another major challenge in the communities we serve. CAMFED Association entrepreneurs have stepped up to buy and distribute essential items, or donate their own produce. In Samfya district, Zambia, young women made a gift of mealie meal and other food to a family of five children, struggling after their mother fell ill. In the Upper West region of Ghana, CAMFED Association member Olivia has been supporting two families with produce including peppers and cabbage from her vegetable farm, as well as other essentials.

On Youth Day, this is just a small snapshot of the actions of 157,005 young women leaders across Africa. With your support, our network of change-makers will continue to reach children with the study materials, health information and food they need to learn and thrive, through this crisis, and beyond.

Lend your support today