Arit Okpo, Host Welcome to African Voices change makers. I’m Arit Okpo. This week we meet a fearless female leader from Zimbabwe who’s advocating for girl’s education in Africa. Unable to pay her own school fees as a child, she now heads up the very organisation that helped her stay in class.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa My policy is that for as long as I’m still breathing, and I’m still here, I’m going to do the best I can, with what I have, with what I know, with whoever is willing to join to be able to make a difference in this lifetime.
We say that by the time I die, I want to be empty, I want to have done everything that I could have done to be able to make this world a better place in whatever way I can. I use education to uplift girls across sub-Saharan Africa. I am Angeline Murimirwa and I am a change maker. So I want you to say what you want to become, loudly, so that we all hear it and you hear it yourself.
Arit Okpo, Host Angeline Murimirwa believes knowledge is power.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Education is justice. Giving everybody an opportunity to go to school is justice. It tells every child that they belong, that they own their destiny, that they can shape it.
Arit Okpo, Host Angeline promotes girl’s education across Africa through the Campaign for Female Education, or CAMFED. The NGO partners with more than seven-thousand schools across five countries to provide educational opportunities and tackle poverty at its core.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa We provide the financial support, the social support and the community support for those girls who get placed to go to secondary school, to be able to proceed. I believe that in education lies all the answers with regards to fighting poverty on the continent. For starters, it’s about inclusion. To date we have supported over five million girls through school. Our strategic plan after 2025 is to support five million more through school.
Arit Okpo, Host We were with Angeline as she travelled to Malawi to check in with members on the ground and discuss some of the challenges they’re facing.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa So, how many of our districts were affected? Today we have got here members of the CAMFED staff, in Malawi, that are coming from various districts and what we are discussing is what has been going on over the past few years, how we’ve been keeping children in school. But particularly we’re zooming in on one of the major risks that is there now due to climate shocks, the challenge of food insecurity and how that would impact on student’s retention in school.
Arit Okpo, Host For Angeline, the organisation’s work is personal. She understands all too well what it’s like to struggle to stay in school.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa I was born by poor parents, subsistence farmers who didn’t have enough to eat let alone invest in, in my education. I personally know how painful it is to be excluded from education. To be told that you can’t sit in this class alongside your peers because you can not meet the cost is powerfully painful.
Arit Okpo, Host Angeline was one of the first young women to receive support from CAMFED.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa It was clear that I wasn’t going to proceed to secondary school, so when CAMFED selected me, the fact that I had school fees guaranteed, I had all school going costs guaranteed, I-for me, I was hopeful. I realised that I could go back home and do something with the education rather than despair and worry about what was going on at home at that particular time.
So, I don’t need any imagination to know what could have become of me, because when I got the chance to be supported by CAMFED, I had colleagues who didn’t get it, and I have seen how their lives turned out. So, for me it’s – it’s how do I use this privilege that I’ve got?
Arit Okpo, Host To give back to the organisation that helped her, she launched the CAMFED association, which is a peer support network of women who were educated with CAMFED support and are now using their own experience to help the next generation of girls break down the barriers to education.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa We are in Nansomba Cluster where we meet with our CAMFED association members. Our biggest supporter right now is the alumnae, who on average are each supporting three other children to go to school. And over the strategic period we are looking multiplying that to five.
These clusters are very helpful because they allow CAMFED association members to be able to meet locally, to design how best they can assist their communities, but also how they can also elevate their lives and make, you know, good out of their lives. Not only are they supporting other children to go to school, they are also helping the aged in the village, repairing their houses, giving them, you know, entire basics and making home visits.
I hope you know just how proud of each of you I am. My heart is singing for joy. Okay, you guys, I need my hugs. I need my hugs. It’s always important to remember that these are girls who could have been a statistic. These are the girls who could have been pushed out of school because their parents did not have the financial means to be able to keep them in secondary school.
So I do think that, you know, we have a whole new generation of leaders that were traditionally excluded that are coming up as teachers, as nurses, as doctors, as lawyers, in their very own communities.
Arit Okpo, Host Next, we meet some of the CAMFED graduates who are empowering the next generation of women leaders. Angeline Murimirwa is determined to help girls across Africa gain equal access to education. To do that, she says they must address widespread poverty in the region.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa There are multiple barriers that we have to jump over as an organisation to be able to get girls into school. All of them are anchored in poverty. So, it becomes a tradition that girls here, when you get to nine-eighteen, or whatever, you drop out. So it becomes more like it’s a community culture – it’s not. It’s a culture of poverty.
I believe that to defy tradition you need to also introduce new narratives. And you do that by providing new opportunities, you know, unprecedented opportunities, and bringing such relatable role models back to the community so communities start looking at different elements around what do we celebrate as a community?
Arit Okpo, Host The social advocate is the executive director for Africa of the Campaign for Female Education, or CAMFED, the same organisation she turned to for help as a struggling student.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Having experienced first-hand the struggle of keeping a hold of education, and seeing not just parents struggle to keep their children in school, and feeling the despair, the helplessness and the sense that you are not in control of your destiny, it informs my leadership of the organisation. It informs every decision we make.
For me, it’s about what you can do with your education, but it’s also about the message that we send when we provide girls with an opportunity to go to school. We say, we are saying to them you have a right, you belong. That’s why I love what I do, because it’s real lives, you see them every single day, every young person we have supported, you meet them. They’ve got their story.
Arit Okpo, Host Today, she’s meeting with several women in Malawi, who graduated school with CAMFED’s help.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa So, are you going to take us in?
Charity, CAMFED Association Member Yes.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for AfricaYes. Let’s see. Charity’s a CAMFED association member and she’s an entrepreneur. She sells fabrics, materials, laces. And just now I’m buying my own fabric so that I can do my chilundu, right?
Charity, CAMFED Association Member Yeah.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Yeah.
Charity, CAMFED Association Member I decided to employ my fellow CAMFED association member as one way of encouraging sisterhood. My greatest vision is to transform this fabric services place to be the tailoring service.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Two? You think two will be enough?
Charity, CAMFED Association Member Two, yeah.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Okay.
Arit Okpo, Host Charity Ligomeka is one of the 200,000 plus members who make up the CAMFED association.
Charity, CAMFED Association Member I manage to do everything, whatever I want in my life as a girl, as a CAMFED association member, I also utilise the profit to do some philanthropic activities. I conduct home visits in person, just to encourage them to do whatever they can.
Arit Okpo, Host Other members have chosen to go back to their former schools as learner guides to mentor students.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa We understand that it’s not enough for a child just to walk through the school gates and to just meet their school uniforms or their school needs. It’s also important for learners to have social support to be able to navigate school and home life, for them to be able to make a success. And this is led by our learner guides and our social support is to all students, both boys and girls. Because for us, it’s important for students to learn, stay in school and succeed.
Arit Okpo, Host The association has also developed a climate-smart agricultural guide programme to invest in female farmers and combat climate change.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa Our work in climate action looks into how do we support communities to be able to use climate-smart approaches, to be able to increase their yields, but also to be able to respond to climate shocks. I’m so excited to be here because we are in Mulanje now, and we are at Edith’s farm, this is a rice farm, massive farm.
CAMFED supported Edith through school from 2013, but she’s now running her own enterprise, and this is big for every young woman that we support. And she’s a role model in her community and others also know that if you support a girl, everything changes. And her story is a testament to that.
Arit Okpo, Host Whether in agriculture or fashion, their success gives Angeline hope that one day every girl in Africa will be given equal opportunity to learn. And she says she will not stop until that dream becomes a reality.
Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director for Africa For every girl out there, poor or not, struggling or not, you matter. You are important. You have every right to be here. You belong and you are alive for a reason. And you have an opportunity to be able to make this world a better place. There’s only one you. And the world needs you in this time, in this generation. Be you, and, you know, you always have a cheerleader in me.