CAMFED 25th Anniversary Gala - Speech Highlights - Video Transcript
Lori Stokes, Master of Ceremonies Ladies and gentlemen, please find your seats so we can start the program. The first gala for CAMFED. It is really so exciting, but I’m not going to try and talk over anyone. So, if you could please, let’s start. Can I just say you all sure look pretty. You look fabulous. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Welcome to everyone. I am honored to be your M.C. For this extraordinary evening for an extraordinary organization, the Campaign for Female Education. Go ahead, start your salad. Don’t feel. Oh, I see you’re chewing already. You’re good. We are absolutely delighted that you could be with us tonight because it is an incredible moment.
We are here not only to celebrate CAMFED’s 25 years of educating and empowering young women in Africa, but to celebrate a moment of liftoff. To look at the future, because let me tell you something. This organization is going places. Going places fast. It is unstoppable. And tonight, you’re going to learn why. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about this amazing organization. Take a look.
Voiceover 25 years ago, a group of 32 girls in Zimbabwe started on a journey set to change the future of their communities, their countries and the world. Poverty had forced them to drop out of school. Ann Cotton founded the Campaign for Female Education to bring them back.
Right now, 52.2 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school. A girl excluded from education is powerless in the face of hunger. Powerless over her own body. Without support, she will stay locked in a cycle of poverty, inequality and early marriage. But what happens when a girl has the opportunity to go to school? What changes? She can put her education first, choosing if and whom to marry.
After graduation, she will earn twice as much, creating the foundation for entire communities to thrive. She will have a smaller, healthier family with lower rates of HIV, AIDS and malaria. She will invest in her children’s education and support them to succeed. Through education, she will have control over her reproductive choices, helping to curb population growth. Family planning, combined with education, addresses climate change more effectively than switching to solar, wind energy, or a plant rich diet.
She will teach, practice law, medicine, or make policy, she will run an eco-friendly business, increasing productivity, nourishing communities, and building resilience to climate disasters. She will lead with respect for men, in partnership with men. So how do we make these changes a reality? By building a model for girls’ education like no other, led by young women who know what it takes for a girl to go to school. Partnering with parents, teachers, traditional leaders and government officials.
The Campaign for Female Education has built an unrivaled support network for the most excluded children across five countries and nearly 6000 schools. And the most unique and powerful outcome of our work is the Pan-African Leadership Network, established by our first graduates. The Campaign for Female Education alumnae network, called CAMA, today has nearly 140,000 members.
These young women are united by one goal to ensure that no girl is excluded, and every girl secures her right to go to school. They know that educating girls solves some of the world’s biggest problems, and they are the experts in reaching the most excluded girls in their communities.
Together we get girls into school, keep them there, help them to learn, support them to succeed and unlock their power to lead. And together with our partners, we have already supported 2.6 million children to go to school. With CAMA members now spearheading our programs, we’re on an incredible trajectory. Our alumnae’s unstoppable commitment to change allows us to scale our impact, while keeping the organization lean. This is a game changing moment!
Linda Bhebe, CAMFED Alumnae (CAMA) Leader, Zimbabwe This is our moment. Yes. This is our moment. Meet the Campaign for Female Education. Look around you, see the young women who were once excluded. We are no longer invisible. We are what happens when you unlock the power in every girl through education. We are more than an organization. We are a movement. Tonight, we are here with you to change the world.
Mwangala Mukelabai, CAMFED Alumnae (CAMA) Leader, Zambia And now, ladies and gentlemen, it gives us the greatest pleasure to welcome to this stage someone who has been with the Campaign for Female Education for 25 years.
She has been with us on this journey since some of us were small girls in school. Since before some of us here were even born. She was with us when we set up CAMA as a network through which we support each other and support other girls in school. She believed in us, and you know, we had to go through to achieve together. She was CAMA’s first champion.
As a result of her faith in us, now everyone who meets CAMA knows that we are the future. Lucy Lake, CEO of the Campaign for Female Education. Please come up.
Lucy Lake, CAMFED Chief Executive Officer Thank you, Mwangala, and welcome to you all. And I’d like to start by recognizing some wonderful and very generous people who’ve made this evening possible. Time won’t be with me to thank everyone from the stage tonight. But I’d like to start with a big shout out to our country underwriters AB InBev, Paul Hastings, the Estee Lauder companies, the Peninsula, New York, the Brito Family Foundation, René and Edward Fields, Nancy and Seth Zachary.
And a special thank you to our two corporate chairs who brought together tonight an incredible global network of supporters, Carlos Brito and Seth Zachary. Can I please ask our corporate chairs to stand and be recognized? Carlos Brito and Seth Zachary. Carlos and Seth, thank you. We have with us tonight members of our board of directors, including our founder, Ann Cotton and our Board Chairs, Sally Osberg and Miranda Curtis and leaders from CAMA alumnae network who’ve traveled long and far to celebrate this moment with us, made possible by the generous support of the MasterCard Foundation.
I’d like to give a special thank you to our event chairs and gala supporters and thank you to our honorary event Chairs. The Baroness Martha Lane Fox. The Honorable Julia Gillard, Sandra Bookman, Simone Boyce, Vy Higginsen, the Roger Federer Foundation and Lori Stokes. And our thanks too to Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Sussex, for her message of support to us all this evening. Who, for obvious reasons, couldn’t be here with us tonight. But our congratulations to the Duchess and Duke on the birth of their baby son, Archie.
And before we move on with the program, a few words on why we’re here tonight. We’re here to shine a spotlight on the importance of ensuring every girl everywhere has the chance to go to school. Over the past 25 years, the Campaign for Female Education has shown how this can be achieved even for the most excluded girls. So why is this so important and why now? Three reasons.
First, equality and justice. So many millions of girls are denied their right to education because they are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. We cannot sit by and allow that injustice to play out to see a child denied her chance to go to school. If we have the power to break that vicious cycle.
Second, the returns. As we’ve heard, the returns of investing in girls’ education are game changing. It is the closest thing that we have to a silver bullet. It is the most effective weapon in the fight against climate change because of the link between girls’ education and population growth.
And the third reason, disruption. At the Campaign for Female Education. We disrupt the status quo by ensuring that young women are able to step forward and take up their rightful place in the world as capable, ambitious and bold leaders alongside men. And together we can unlock an incredible force for change of leaders who know what it means to be excluded and can unite to tackle it. It is the most positive form of disruption, and it starts when girls go to school.
So, three reasons why girls’ education is so important. Returns, equality and disruption. R, E, D, red. And the Campaign for Female Education operates under a red alert. Because this isn’t just important. It is urgent. This is an emergency. We cannot stand by while another generation of girls is excluded from school and the world cannot afford to wait to see the returns of girls’ education. If we are serious about tackling the biggest issues of our time, including climate change, we, all of us in this room have the power to respond to that emergency.
And tonight, we show you how. We’re not here to present to you a daunting problem. We’re here to share with you an extraordinary possibility for this is a pivotal moment. We are on the verge of an incredible new chapter of the Campaign for Female Education, a chapter that builds on the foundations that we have laid over the last 25 years that mean we are set to take off. A chapter that is led by the young women in our alumnae network, who are the experts in knowing what it takes for a girl to go to school and succeed. A chapter that is set to change the future of Africa and of our world.
And on that note, to take us through the rest of this evening, I’d like to welcome back to the stage Lori Stokes, nine-time Emmy Award winning journalist, news anchor, co-host of Good Day, New York, and our glorious M.C. for this special evening. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Lori.
Lori Stokes, Master of Ceremonies Thank you, Lucy. Beautiful ladies that are up here. Beautiful, smart, talented, educated women that were up here. But Archie has no idea about his mother, does he? Let me tell you a little bit more about why I’m so delighted to be here tonight.
Like many of you, I am relatively new to the Campaign for Female Education, but I’ve always been passionate and a passionate believer in the importance of female leadership and empowering women and girls across the planet. What this organization has been able to achieve in two and a half decades is truly remarkable. You saw in the video, you heard it from Lucy, and you will hear again tonight from many champions who have stepped up to support and give a platform to the thousands of young women now spearheading CAMFED’s programs across Africa.
Listen to them carefully as some of these champions speak. Because they are on the right side of history. They understand that a young woman, alumnae, whom we’re so grateful to have with us tonight, are not only at the heart of the Campaign for Female Education, but they’re also the essence. This is development done differently, substantially. Forget what you imagine a charity to be. This organization turns that notion upside down.
Too often we see human potential unrealized because of poverty or instability. And we assume that power and the efforts to change the status quo have come from outside of these countries. But this vital organization is home grown. It’s true. And there’s a lot of power in that. Since it was founded 25 years ago, the Campaign for Female Education has always known that the power for change lies from within the community. True partnerships unlock the power in each person, in each family to solve their own problems and take responsibility for the solutions.
Also, to take credit and pride in the results. Girls in school, women running businesses. Boys and men gaining new self-respect, changing centuries old patterns of existence. So, this is really the model that puts power exactly where it belongs, in the hands of young women. Once at the margins of society. Who have lived through immense challenges in their lives, face huge barriers, but through education and support within their communities, they have risen above it all. Using this grassroot motto, power is not dependent on an outside source, but something that comes from within.
Now let me introduce to you Campaign for Female Education alumna, Rosalinda. Rosalinda is from Ghana. She exemplifies this power within. Extreme poverty once threatened her education and her future. But now she’s an aspiring lawyer and activist. Fighting to bring justice for the most marginalized girls. A university student, Rosalinda, also runs her own nonprofit organization, which provides vocational skills training to young mothers. So that they too can become financially independent. Ladies and gentlemen, Campaign for Female Education alumna, Rosalinda Agana.
Rosalinda Agana, CAMFED Alumnae (CAMA) Leader, Ghana Hello. My name is Rosalinda, as she rightfully said, and I travel to meet you all here on this special evening from Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana to share my story and that of my fellow alumnae about how our lives have been transformed to the chance to go to school.
My mom was just a child when she married my dad, a much older man. My dad died when I was just 11, and my mom struggled to take care of us with no education or job prospects. This happens to too many women at home and could have easily been my future due to poverty. I had to move in with foster parents and struggled to fight against great odds to complete my education. I would wake up at 4 a.m. to do my chores and walk an hour and a half to school.
Yet I was determined to succeed. Ignorance made me vulnerable. However, education liberated me. Eventually the fear of going against great odds died off and I realized that I can do anything. I am living proof that investing in girls’ education unlocks her potential, changes her trajectory of her future, the future of her community and our global future.
A few weeks ago. A group of us alumnae in Ghana got the opportunity to learn filmmaking. Through a partnership with Estée Lauder, who stepped in to support 2000 girls in Ghana through secondary education. I am so excited to share just 2 minutes videos of the stories we shot. And to bring our work in Africa to life to you all here tonight.
Filmmaking helped us tell our own stories in a new way. It helped us to discover our talents and strengths. At times we had to cry about our pasts, and we realized that those were not just our weaknesses, but it had shown us how much we had grown as a group, as women and as individuals. And how much more we can do for ourselves and the world around us.
The Campaign for Female Education reaches the most vulnerable girls. I was one of those girls once. And so were Joanna and Ruth, who you will meet shortly. As Lori explained, we are part of a model which is unique. It puts power where it belongs, in our hands. The hands of young women who have lived poverty, exclusion and the threat of child marriage. With the right supports, we have risen above these challenges.
Now we are breaking the cycle of poverty. And unleashing the next generation’s power by showing each girl that there is nothing outside herself and her community needed to change. This is a route to empowered families, villages, countries. This is a chance to put the earth on a new path of stability instead of decline. Education is a power that cannot be taken away. Now, please travel with me to meet my mother and my fellow graduates and see how we have become an unstoppable force for good.
Ruth, Campaign for Female Education Alumna Growing up, I saw my mother trying to make life better for us. I was always seeing her struggle. Sometimes working for just two Ghana cedis which could not even pay for our bills at home, let alone school bills.
Joanna, Campaign for Female Education Alumna I’m a medical student and I live with a disability. It was like I was an outcast. It took me a long time to really accept who I was. When I wanted to do medicine, my mates were like, “You can’t do it. You have a disability.” It’s like people constantly remind me of the fact I was different.
Rosalinda Agana, CAMFED Alumnae (CAMA) Leader, Ghana My mom was just 15 years old when she was forced to marry. She lost the opportunity to be educated or even to pursue her career. See, my mom. And that has kind of motivated me to help teenage mothers and young girls who have been victims of early child marriage.
Joanna, Campaign for Female Education Alumna When you know that someone is there cheering you on and hoping for the best for you, I think it helps a lot. And I want to be that rock for somebody else out there.
Rosalinda Agana, CAMFED Alumnae (CAMA) Leader, Ghana I want to be the daughter that will make everybody appreciates her, respects her. And that is why I want to become a lawyer.
Ruth, Campaign for Female Education Alumna If I set a target for myself, It looks huge and it looks scary. But then, I tell myself that everything is possible. Everything that you can think of is possible.
Lori Stokes, Master of Ceremonies Together we’re thrilled to introduce Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director in Africa. Angie was one of the first young women to receive support from the Campaign for Female Education to go to high school in Zimbabwe. Now she oversees the delivery of the organization’s mission across five countries.
And Angie understands from experience both the desire for education and the enormous hurdles girls face in securing their right to an education. In a spirit of solidarity. Facing the same struggles that she has overcome, she became a key founding member of the CAMFED Alumnae Network, CAMA. Angie. Welcome to New York.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director, Africa Good evening, everybody. Thank you so much, Lori. I hope you enjoy your dinner, everybody. Today I’m super excited. If there’s a word like fantabulously excited. I’m so excited today that we have CAMFED’s founder in the room. I’m excited that Ann Cotton is here with us today and we can talk about this later, she’s not going to like it, but Ann would you please stand? Please. And if you would please join me in recognizing Ann. So, a super-duper good clap better than you were doing? You can do this. Thank you so much.
Ann saw a problem of girls being outside of school, and she responded to it by supporting 32 girls in one of the remotest rural districts in Zimbabwe, Nyaminyami. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the starting point of the Campaign for Female Education, CAMFED. By supporting those 32 girls to take up their rightful place alongside boys in secondary school and challenge the received wisdom of the time that claimed girls were out of school because their families and their parents did not value their education.
A bold action showed that if you took poverty out of the equation, girls would be in school alongside boys. Tonight, in this room with some of the very first young women supported to go to school by the Campaign for Female Education 25 years ago. And I’m proud to say I’m one of them. Together with others supported, we founded the Campaign for Female Education Alumnae Network, CAMA.
You saw us here, earlier, when Lucy was speaking. And today I would want to give you the opportunity to hear us do our CAMA thing our CAMA way. So, the CAMA members in the room… [singing]. You know, normally we would drown the room, but there are 600 of you, so.
Together and with our sisters who could not be here tonight, we represent nearly 140,000 changemakers. Yes, 140,000 members. That is the latest number we are revealing to you tonight. We can hear them singing and dancing and cheering. All of us here, all the way from Africa. By the way, I danced in New York City today and I sprained my ankle. So, the celebration started before the celebration.
Through CAMA we have been able to show everyone the benefits of educating girls not just for the world, but for those families who are otherwise trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. We, their daughters, are now breaking that cycle, leading them out. We are the living proof of a model that works of an unstoppable leadership force with an awesome, awesome multiplier effect.
Right now, on average, every CAMFEDs alumna, every Campaign for Female Education alumna supports another three children, not in her immediate family to go to school. And as a leading educator, health worker, businesswoman or policymaker, she’s a force for sustained growth and activism well beyond the school gates and well beyond her immediate family. We have seen [inaudible] showing the trajectory of impact of our campaign for female education. We are at a turning point.
Tonight, is a launching pad into a new level of impact. I am excited to announce our audaciously audacious goal of supporting 5 million girls to go to school. I’m just going to say that again in case somebody missed it, right. I’m super-duper excited to announce our audaciously audacious goal of supporting 5 million girls. And mark this, we’re not going to support them over a hundred years, over a century. We’re going to support 5 million girls to go to school over the next five years.
This is a rare moment. It is not an African moment, but a world moment. This is our moment to unite, to pull together, to make an outsized impact on the future. We are excited that you, you, you and you are part of it. Together we can. In Swahili we say, “Pamoja tunaweza.” Thank you.
Lucy Lake, CAMFED Chief Executive Officer Well, Lori has given me her notes to kick off the next part of this evening when I’m introducing a very special guest. But I’m actually going to put these notes aside because there’s a few other things that I want to say about our next guest, Julia Gillard, the Honorable Julia Gillard. Julia Gillard is a patron of CAMFED, Campaign for Female Education.
But Julia is better known for her former role as Prime Minister of Australia and as a world leader. And I think Julia has brought so much to us at the Campaign for Female Education and for the young women in our alumnae network who are now stepping up as leaders. I think in the current situation in the world where there is a real dearth of leadership, Julia shines forth and she has been a role model for all of us in CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education.
So, I’m so proud to have this opportunity to welcome Julia to the stage, although I, I should say some of the other positions that you hold, Julia, as Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for Education, Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, and of course, the 27th Prime Minister of Australia. Julia.
Julia Gillard, CAMFED Patron Thank you to Lucy for that way too generous introduction, that was lovely. A big salute to Ann, to Angie, to all of the CAMA alumnae who are here. And more than anything else, to those wild bidders in the last section. Well done, you. It’s fantastic to be here.
And I want to just ask you to do one thing right now, and that is to reflect on the moment in your life, which brought the biggest change to your life across your life’s journey. What was that one moment that made the biggest difference? For me, I know what that moment was. It wasn’t the moment that I was elected to the Australian Parliament. It wasn’t the moment that I became Deputy Prime Minister. It wasn’t the moment that I became Prime Minister. The moment that changed everything in my life was when my mother and father, who migrated to Australia, picked the house that we were going to live in as my sister, and I grew up.
And why was that moment so important? Because my sister and I, the daughters of a mother and father who hadn’t finished secondary school, were destined to go to the local government schools. And fortunately, fortunately, fortunately, my mother and father picked a house where the local schools were great schools. And I’ve often reflected what would my life have been if they’d picked another house, if they’d picked another suburb where the schools had been poor quality schools, it would have been possible. That moment that changed my life.
Now I don’t know what that other life not lived would have looked like, where I would have been if they’d picked another house and the schools had been of poor quality. But I can certainly say this about that other life. I would not have ended up going to university. I would not have ended up finding my passion for public policy. I would not have ended up Prime Minister of my nation.
Education changes everything. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate tonight. And if we know that about our own lives, then surely, we’ve got to be passionate about making sure that that change moment is there for every girl’s life. And that’s the power of CAMFED and why I was so pleased and proud when I was invited to be its patron. And of course, CAMFED is more than a change in an individual girl’s life. CAMFED brings that moment of change. But it is creating a movement. It is creating a movement of future leaders who I believe will transform the continent of Africa.
And you’ve met some of those future leaders tonight. It is just a blessing to watch their development and to know how much power they have and what they are going to unleash in the development of their local communities, their nations and the continent overall. I am so sure that in years to come I will be able to say to people, I knew her back when, when one of the CAMA alumnae emerges as a president, a prime minister, a business leader who is changing everything in Africa, we will be able to say we knew them because CAMFED and CAMA brought that change moment to their lives.
What an amazing organization to be involved with. Thank you for your generosity and coming and supporting this organization tonight. Thank you to Ann, to Lucy, for all of their efforts, to Angie and to everybody who makes this movement for change possible. It’s a privilege to share it with you.
I have the privilege of introducing to you a very special woman who is going to be our honoree for this evening. I’m introducing a global icon, Annie Lennox. She is a multiple award-winning singer songwriter. Now, if it was Angie, she’d break into some of the songs, but I’m not going to put you through that. She’s a social activist and a philanthropist. Annie’s music has guided so many of our youthful moments. And her passion in the fight against injustice and for women and girls has inspired generations.
One of the clarion voices in the women’s leadership movement today, Annie, has received numerous accolades in recognition of her activism, beginning in 2003, when she performed at the inaugural concert for Nelson Mandela’s HIV AIDS Foundation, 46664, which became a pivotal point on her life’s course and was the first of many performers’ performances to advocate, raise awareness and fundraise for HIV, AIDS, combating it in our world. Annie went on to develop the sing campaign, supporting women and children affected by HIV AIDS.
She has also served as the United Nations ambassador on AIDS. In 2008, Annie founded The Circle, which aims to inspire support and amplify awareness of the issues experienced by many of the world’s most disempowered women and girls in order to challenge and most importantly, change the injustices they face.
Tonight, we’re very excited to be coming together at this pivotal moment for women and girls to honor Annie’s work, her tireless and exceptional leadership, and to raise up the young women of Africa on whose gifts the continent’s future depends. The start of this world changing shift, which Annie has encouraged all of us to strive for with all of our collective might, is the education of girls.
Annie, please join me on stage. And will everybody join me in welcoming Annie. Annie, please accept that remarkable award on behalf of the Campaign for Female Education. It has been chosen and brought from Africa by the young women of CAMA. It is unique and significant, just like you. And it’s our honor to have our energy directed towards you. We want to have this moment where we honor you. We want to honor everything that you’ve done, the voice that you raise on behalf of women and girls around the world. And that is what this award is for. Annie Lennox.
Annie Lennox OBE, Honoree We live in a world where, as the film points out, two thirds of the 757 million adults who cannot read and write are. Tell me, what are they? Correct. So, you know. This fact, right now there are 52.2 million girls in Africa who are not in education and might never have the opportunity to even step inside a classroom. Those of us who realize the facts are working towards creating transformative change. It can be done, and CAMFED are part of the solution.