Soledad O’Brien So let’s go back to the very beginning and talk about how you first came to CAMFED, or how knowledge of CAMFED first came to you.
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa I had just received my primary school leaving certificate exams. I had not just done very well, I had thrashed the school record for pass rate, not just the school one, it was the best you could get nationally. But this was my last act. I knew that there was no way my parents could afford to support me through secondary school – we just didn’t have the money. Fortunately at that point that’s when CAMFED was starting to work in my community. So my community selected me for support and well my story changed from that point on.
Soledad O’Brien What did CAMFED do for you over the years? Because obviously it’s what has led you to continue your relationship with the organization.
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa The reason I have stayed with CAMFED is the opportunity that it gave me, but also for millions of girls in my community. Come on, they are breathing, living, talking evidence of the work of CAMFED’s investment.
Soledad O’Brien We mentioned in your introduction that you’re a founding member, so explain to everybody what the CAMFED Association is.
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa So we started the CAMFED Association to build a peer support network, to be there for each other, to support each other as we navigated life after school, as we navigated a world that wasn’t prepared for girls from such marginalized backgrounds as ours to be able to start interfacing with employment, entrepreneurship and education.
But also to be able to say, “How do we help the next generation?” Because we didn’t want them bruised like we were. Now, many years later, over 210,000 members, set to reach 225,000, we continue to do that. Support the next generation but at the same time continue to do the best that we can with the education opportunity that we got. What we are doing now as an organization, we have a whole guide program.
So guides are young women activists who support others through transition. So they sit down with a young woman and say, “Oh yes, sister, welcome to the world. This is what it’s going to look like. These are your opportunities. What would you want to do; employment, entrepreneurship, education? If you want to do all of them, that’s fine, but this is how the journey looks like.”
Soledad O’Brien You talk about tremendous growth. You said 225,000 is what you’re looking at in the first quarter, so explain that growth to us. That’s remarkable.
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa The CAMFED Association, as a network, as young women, we support more girls through school than the organization that supported us, so than CAMFED itself. So talking about the multiplier, talking about local philanthropy, is the young women that were supported through school that are supporting more children than funds that we get from donors and philanthropy externally.
Soledad O’Brien So can you make that connection between girls’ education and climate crisis, and really helping fight against a climate crisis?
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa We started getting involved in climate action because the young women that we support saw the centrality of it in their community. We come from communities where 60-80% of the food is produced by women.
We have got young women that are Agriculture Guides. So our Guides, our activists, these are young women who are acting in their various communities, and these are young women that are interested in climate-smart action, but who are also experienced and have expertise in it.
We have got communities now that look into how do you increase yields without compromising the future? How do you use Indigenous practices but also bring in innovation as you do that? So our whole climate action work is based on helping adaptation.
Soledad O’Brien The theme today is ‘The Power of Perseverance.’ What does that mean to you?
Angie Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa I am so proud to be a member of the CAMFED Association because young women members of our network realize that in this [COVID] crisis, education is under threat. Safety and safeguarding of girls is under threat.
But they were holding study circles, study groups, in the village, keeping learning going and of course taking prompt action to children that they knew that this child’s family circumstances was not well, they risk actually just falling out of school, so how do we help them to continue learning? For me, that’s phenomenal.
Because, come on, these are young women that were supported through school by CAMFED, because they are emerging from poverty themselves. They could have looked at this and said, “We need to survive ourselves.” So we did that and you know to the point that even the Ministries of Education in countries that we work in. We had our Learner Guides on radios, we had self-help study guides designed by the CAMFED Association.
When schools started opening, right? Over 90% of the children that our alumnae network was working with came back to school. And that’s way higher than in most contexts where we’re not. So, that’s for me the power of perseverance.