Diris Martin introduces Learner Guide Doris Mponji, who changed gender perceptions in her family and the wider community.
Girls can be the catalyst for change in their communities - and new research in Tanzania will identify how
The Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge has announced new research working collaboratively with CAMFED and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It will explore how young women who have benefitted from our grassroots-led Learner Guide program become catalysts for change within their communities.
The program supports marginalised children in the government school system – especially adolescent girls, who are most vulnerable to drop out – to learn, thrive, and transition into secure adulthood and leadership. The research will focus on ways in which Learner Guides can help to shift gender norms, addressing the balance of power in schools and communities, leading to systemic societal change. It is being conducted in Tanzania, where the Learner Guide model has been embedded within CAMFED’s holistic approach to girls’ exclusion since 2014.
A youth-led program addressing harmful gender norms
The CAMFED Learner Guide program is a youth-led initiative in rural schools where recent female graduates are trained to deliver weekly life skills and wellbeing sessions which enable boys and girls to discuss and address harmful gender norms, stereotypical behaviors and cultural beliefs and traditions.
Learner Guides also provide psychosocial mentoring support to help marginalized children succeed, and work with schools and communities to address girls’ exclusion from and within the school system. Provided with access to business training and loans in exchange for volunteering, Learner Guides gain leadership and entrepreneurship skills with the aim of them becoming respected role models in their communities, changing mindsets and galvanising collective action to address harmful social norms. The program was recognized with the 2017 WISE Award, and was key to CAMFED receiving the Yidan Prize for Education Development in 2020.
The research, funded by Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropies, is the latest to come out of a new partnership between the REAL Centre and CAMFED, announced by the University of Cambridge’s Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope at the Yidan Prize Conference in Cambridge on 7 October 2021. The research examines how community-led interventions that target the needs of the most marginalized children can be scaled through education systems in Tanzania and in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
This ‘catalyst for change’ research aims to identify what unlocks, complements and grows Learner Guide capacities as agents of change — looking at program elements such as training, supervision, community support and young women’s access to capital to grow financial independence. The team will investigate how this model helps elevate the status of young women, and in turn helps to shift social norms within the community.
It builds on an ongoing collaboration between the REAL Centre, CAMFED and the University of Dar es Salaam, which also includes an assessment of the potential for scaling core elements of the Learner Guide program across the government school system, funded under the Global Partnership for Education’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) program.
The research is expected to provide important lessons for CAMFED’s own program, as well as to inform how to achieve systems change by catalysing the power of vulnerable young women to become community change-agents, collectively creating a more equitable future for all.
Meet CAMFED alumna Stumai, whose work as a Learner Guide at a CAMFED partner secondary school in Morogoro District, Tanzania, transformed her community.
Meet Dotto, a CAMFED Association member and Learner Guide from Tanzania.
Sophia is a leader in her community and a role model to other girls.
Fiona Mavhinga introduces CAMFED Association leader Mary, who fights exploitation of girls at school and women at university.
Lydia Wilbard interviews a Learner Guide who brought a sexual offender to justice.