Brooke Hutchinson, Executive Director, CAMFED USA Foundation Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, depending on where you’re joining us from today. My name is Brooke Hutchinson and I’m the executive director of CAMFED USA. Thank you each and all for being here with us. I see many familiar faces in the room, which is wonderful and just as wonderful, many new partners who recently joined our global movement. We’re grateful for your support, your time and your interest in CAMFED’s work.
We’ll be hearing today from my friend and colleague Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED’s executive director for Africa. In what we’ve termed ‘CAMFED 101’, Angie will speak about how we’re converting your generosity into positive action and measurable impact every day.
Now, I know we’re all eager to hear from Angie, whose personal and professional story with CAMFED extends back to our founding as you’ll learn, and who today leads our mission to catalyze the power of vulnerable girls and young women to create the future they imagine for themselves, for their communities, and for Africa. Without further ado, welcome, Angie, and thank you for guiding us through this CAMFED 101.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director, Africa Thank you, Brooke. Welcome, everyone. It’s so great to see so many of you here today. Huge thanks for giving your time to find out more about our work about CAMFED. My name is Angeline Murimirwa, but everyone calls me Angie. I’m joining you from Harare in Zimbabwe, where CAMFED’s programs started in 1993.
And now, I need 20 seconds to bring Africa to you because my fellow sisters, other CAMFED graduates, can be with us in person to set the mood and for you to experience a bit of what life for a CAMFED graduate can be like. I hope you get some of that energy that was in Malawi when we welcomed Prince Harry with this song when he visited CAMFED in 2019.
I’m joining you today as the embodiment of the CAMFED story, because I was one of the very first girls CAMFED supported to go to secondary school in Zimbabwe. I then co-founded the CAMFED Association of women leaders, educated with CAMFED support. It is our leadership that makes CAMFED so unique. Together, we are showing the world the unparalleled returns of investing in girls’ education. It’s how we unlock what we call the multiplier effect. And what Nick Kristof of The New York Times also called CAMFED’s perpetual motion machine. When you educate one girl, you educate many.
We are thrilled that Meghan and Prince Harry included CAMFED in their actual foundation, International Women’s Day Initiative. In a time when COVID has laid bare the consequences of inequality in the starkest terms both in the U.S., where many of you observed and globally, this kind of action-oriented support could not be more important. You know, I visited the US just before the pandemic changed all of our lives. When I spoke at TED Women in California in December 2019.
But anyway, we promised you a CAMFED 101, so let me take a step back and ask a simple question. Why girls’ education? Of all the things we could be talking about today, why girls’ education? The simple answer is because girls’ education has the power to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges from poverty and social injustice to inequality and climate change. Even before the pandemic, 52.2 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa were out of school.
For CAMFED. education is a fundamental human right and a matter of justice. And we focus on girls and young women because where we work, they are still the first to be excluded, to be failed by the system. Facing the perils of early marriage, early pregnancy and abuse, without the choice to write their own futures, their endless potential is wasted.
And we don’t just support girls to go to school, stay in school, learn and succeed. We go on to support them in the transition to independent livelihoods and leadership. It is our unique combination of financial and social support that allows young women to reach their full potential and become leaders and changemakers in their communities and beyond. By supporting girls to learn, we are tackling issues of social injustice, such as exclusion from school due to poverty, child marriage, abuse, and women’s lack of access to resources and services.
We are tackling climate change, supporting young women to adapt, build resilience, not exclude communities, and create new opportunities by teaching Climate-smart agriculture, for example. And we are supporting women to start and grow rural enterprises, creating jobs, wealth and prosperity through economic development.
But how are we doing this successfully? You know, during this pandemic, the world has really woken up to the power of community, of grassroots activism, of people coming together as they experience the same hardship in different contexts. We know that when communities own their problems and are part of the solution, change happens. That can be reversed. Well, this has been our model for nearly 30 years. Building community ownership and leadership from the ground up while working with schools and governments to ensure that the best practice in child protection and quality education percolates through the system.
We are accountable to every single girl we serve. And we are responsive to her individual needs. We build a community of support around her, from teachers and parents to local chiefs and district officials. These are the CAMFED champions, the community volunteers that own the program and see with pride the results of their commitment in every young woman who graduates. And these graduates are invited to join the CAMFED Association. Women who use their expertize and experience of poverty to build and deliver programs that leave no girl behind. Women like me.
We are also part of the champions and as CAMFED staff, many of us are part of CAMFED operations, the governance, financial monitoring and operational infrastructure of the charity. This ensures accountability to our partner communities and our international partners and donors like you. As a result of this, as a result of this model and the opportunities we open up for women after school, every graduate supports on average another three girls to go to school with their own money and their own resources. And she will provide social support, mentoring, training and inspiration to hundreds more.
There are now 157,000 young women leaders in the CAMFED association. We build the trust and relationships in our communities. We are the role models and mentors and the working acting proof of the power of education. We make up 24% of CAMFED’s executive team internationally. In Zimbabwe, our longest established program, 55% of our staff are former clients working directly on program delivery, monitoring and partnerships. For example, using our own unique experiences and expertize to ensure we deliver for the most marginalized and see the world through their eyes and their context.
While we are talking about numbers, I’ll add a few more. CAMFED partners with 6853 schools and communities across Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We support children at elementary and high school, what we call primary and secondary school in our context. But our core focus is on adolescent girls, on the transition between primary and secondary school, and again, the transition after secondary school into independence where girls face an abys. Because of lack of resources and support. And easily become victims of exploitation and early marriage.
So, we train our graduates to provide the life skills and social support girls need to make it all the way through school and the skills and resources to transition into further education, entrepreneurship, employment and leadership. As a result, graduates and their communities are matching donor generosity and supporting many more girls with their own resources. It’s a sustainable model that allowed us to smash our 1 million target and support 1.2 million girls through high school over these past five years. And then, of course, to establish the goal of supporting another 5 million girls in the next five years.
We have already supported more than 22,000 young women to start a business, including Climate-smart agriculture businesses, and nearly 69,000 are in leadership roles at the community, national and international levels. Addressing all of those issues we spoke about in the beginning. So, what are some of the faces and stories behind those numbers?
That is me in my school uniform. Having decent clothes and study shoes means confidence and pride for girls. It means people can see how poor you are just by looking at your own clothes. Can you see me at the very back of that middle picture? It’s when we CAMFED graduates met for the first time to form our network. I was still wearing my school uniform. That was the only decent clothes I owned. And remember, I was 18. That means a lot. Then there is me with Lucy Lake, my co-executive, best in the UK, and Chief, one of the first traditional leaders who partnered with us. I’m not alone. Remember I said there are over 157,000 of my sisters out there.
But I’ll give you a snapshot today. So here this is Lucia. Her parents, like mine, couldn’t afford the most basic necessities. She walked four miles to and from primary school each day in bare feet, which would go numb on the frosted ground in winter. Like me, Lucia cried when she passed your primary school exams. She had no money to continue to secondary school.
Everything changed when CAMFED stepped in. And today, Lucia teaches and mentors students at her old school. She’s the role model to so many. There she is on the same rock she sat on as the student. Let me show you Primrose. Primrose at the front of the group shots was badly burned as a child. Some of your bones didn’t grow properly, so she lives with a physical disability. With CAMFED support she became a therapist for children with disabilities, educating parents and bringing expertize to our work with disabled children.
And my other dear colleague, Fiona. Fiona is on the right. She and her grandmother used to walk to the market at 4 a.m. to sell vegetables to get enough money for school fees and other benefits. With CAMFED support Fiona became the first lawyer in the CAMFED Association. She leads the Development of our Leadership Network. There she is with Michelle Obama at the Obama Foundation summit in 2017.
And of course, Faith. Faith in the back has always been a math whiz. Her mom worked so hard to try and raise the school fees. The teachers brought vegetables but just bought vegetables from her to help. And then CAMFED’s intervention secured her education. Today, faith leads our programs as a national director of CAMFED Zimbabwe. Our work is tough. Every day. We can’t bear to see a single child suffer. But we also still giggle like schoolgirls sometimes.
Since we graduated, we have seen a whole generation of young women step up and join us. Each with a unique perspective, each determined to pay forward the education. We call it plowing back. If they had to stop me from talking, I can talk to you forever. I never tire of saying just how far we have come and how proud of ourselves we are, but also how proud our communities and government officials, our traditional leaders, our parents are of us.
There are thousands of examples of African women in the CAMFED movement who are working tirelessly to improve girl’s prospects of becoming independent, influential women. I hope today, this gives you a flavor and understanding of the power of our model because we are now taking it to a whole new next level. This year, in spite of COVID and all the challenges it brings, we are putting our next strategic plan into action to support 5 million girls through school in just five years. With just 300 staff members across the world.
We are accomplishing so much, but there’s still so much more to do. Our programs are so impactful, sustainable and scalable because our partner communities and graduates understand their problems and how to solve them and together. We are unstoppable. Your investment is fueling our superpower – education. It is the power no one can take away. And we hope you will continue right by our side so that millions more girls can get the chance we got. Thank you.
Brooke Hutchinson, Executive Director, CAMFED USA Foundation And we’re just coming close to the end of our time. So, if your question you get asked will be sure to follow up directly, but maybe I can just ask one final question before we come to a close, Angie. What keeps you up at night as a leader and as an activist in girls’ education? What keeps you up at night? But also with two-part question, what do you see as the greatest opportunity as well in your work?
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director, Africa Brooke, you realize that it’s not the opportunity that would keep me up at work and keep me up at night? All right. That’s a very loaded question, right. So, I just want to be able to say that, you know, for me, education access, equity, quality beckons to my soul. It powers me. I know personally what it means to get that chance because I was excluded at one point. And I know that such exclusion does not just manifest in school exclusion. You feel like you’re not worth it, like your fate is sealed before you even start. And the opportunity to get an education is empowering. It’s a gift. I can’t even, I can’t even describe. I’m tempted to go into my mother languages. So, I just want to say so for me, that’s my drive.
What keeps me awake at night is just how many children are out of school right now. You know, after all these years of education, for all of drive, it still breaks my heart that there are millions of girls and boys who are out of school and that there are millions who are still not able to complete school. That breaks my heart because every day it’s like seeing worst go on every single day. And I don’t need an imagination. When I got a chance to go through school, there were peers in my class that didn’t get the chance. So, I know personally what that means. And when I look at them, I see what their life became and the difference my life meant.
So, talking about opportunity, we are still alive, aren’t we? You know, COVID and all, we are still standing. And I believe that we are alive for a reason. So, whatever we can all do in this time, in this season, while are we still breathing, to be able to help one more girl, two more girls, three more girls to just get that chance. It’s phenomenal. And I love that, you know, like we always say with my sisters in CAMA that, you know, we’ll make this dollar count. We’ll make every dollar, every cent given to CAMFED count.
You know, we don’t need any motivation to do what we do. We have got that covered. Every dollar you give will go far. It will allow for more, more and more Angelines to come through, more and more Fionas. It’s possible. I can go on and on Brooke. Otherwise, everybody would have a sleepless night if I start talking. So, I put a full stop now.
Brooke Hutchinson, Executive Director, CAMFED USA Foundation Thanks, Angie. More Angelines, more Fionas, more Faiths, absolutely. So, thank you so much. We’ve come to the end of our time together. And thank you, Angie, first of all, for meeting us today and for all of the supporters who have joined us, engaged and asked questions. As I said at the beginning, we’ll share the recording of the event after the call. And if you like what you heard, which we hope is the case, please ask that you pass it on to five friends so that more people can join our movement for change. Thank you again and everyone, have a wonderful day.