My friend and colleague Angeline Murimirwa is preparing to speak at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford on the 12th of April, alongside social entrepreneurs and leaders of change from around the globe. Once unable to afford decent school clothes or even a pencil to write with, today Angie is Executive Director in Africa for Camfed, which supported us both to complete our education in Zimbabwe. Looking back on how we started, I am prouder than words that she will stand alongside leaders including Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; and Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation, to reflect on the theme ‘The Power of Proximity.’
Having been Camfed students and graduated into CAMA, the Camfed alumnae network, has made Angie and me who we are today. And if I have learned anything in the twenty years since CAMA was born, it is that alone I would feel powerless and frustrated, but together with my CAMA sisters I am part of an unstoppable movement of change, 120,000 strong, that is spreading across Africa and beyond.
Together, we are using our lived experience of poverty and marginalization to turn things around for ourselves, and for the next generation. CAMA is made up of educated young women, who, once marginalized, have blossomed into leaders, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and teachers, all committed to making lasting change.
Angie and I both come from small villages in Zimbabwe, and at times both of us thought we wouldn’t complete our education. We understand well the reasons that a rural girl might have to drop out of school. Families often struggle to pay for essentials like stationery, uniform, shoes and sanitary pads. There might be long distances to travel to school, leaving students hungry, exhausted and vulnerable. In many cases it seems that marriage is the only way to secure a girl’s future, but it just leads to early pregnancy and a lifetime of poverty.