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Fiona Mavhinga

In a previous blog, I talked about the changing political climate as a result of the onset of election season in Europe.

Further afield, spectators, businesses, and global activists have been talking about a different kind of climate, contemplating what President Trump’s stance on the Paris Agreement means for our children. This month’s release of the sequel to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth — An Inconvenient Sequel — brings the subject close to home. Younger generations are those who are going to be the most affected by present decisions about climate change.

I’ve also written extensively about leadership in the past. It’s something we need now more than ever, because climate change is real, and an ever stronger global response is needed to mitigate its impact and limit a further increase in temperature levels in the future.

They suffer whilst we prevaricate

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, climate change is afflicting communities with devastating consequences. In 2016, El-Nino related droughts in Southern and Eastern Africa caused Malawi and Zimbabwe to declare national emergencies, with millions of people facing extreme hunger. This year, communities in Zimbabwe suddenly faced perilous flooding, as heavy rains caused houses and livelihoods to be swept away. In these countries, where CAMFED works, most families depend on agriculture for survival. Women make up the largest percentage of the workforce in the sector, but lack access and control over land and productive resources. They are particularly disadvantaged when crops fail, and the vulnerability of their position on the ‘frontline’ of climate change is sadly only likely to increase. They suffer whilst we prevaricate.

Empowering girls and women through a combination of education and family planning is the number one thing the world can do to address climate change

CAMFED Association members in Zimbabwe working on sexual reproductive health training for adolescent girls in their local schools. Photo: CAMFED/Jon Pilch

We know that the status and prospects for girls and women are the most important indicator of our world’s stability, prosperity, and safety. Critically, a clear link has now also been established between girls’ education and the mitigation of climate change.

Research from Project Drawdown highlighted by the Brookings Institution shows that “empowering girls and women through a combination of education and family planning is the number one thing the world can do to address climate change, ahead of switching to solar energy, wind energy, or a plant-rich diet” and would result in 120 gigatons of carbon reduction by 2050.

The United Nations projects that the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050, with most growth occurring in developing countries. In Africa, the population is projected to rise by 1.2 billion people, as high fertility rates meet declining mortality rates. Providing girls with quality education, which includes much-needed information and guidance around family planning and female reproductive health, can open up more personal choice and greater financial independence for young women, who will in turn invest in the education of their — fewer and healthier — children. Statistics from the World Bank show that the difference between 0 years of schooling and 12 years of schooling is almost 4 to 5 children per woman.

When leadership is lacking from traditional spaces, a major focus in the global debate on climate change must be the promotion of girls and women’s rights in sub-Saharan Africa.

A case in point are the members of our CAMFED Association, the network of women leaders educated with CAMFED support, who use their oexpertise to benefit others.

They not only support more disadvantaged girls to go to school, but guide young women through sensitive subjects, including sexual reproductive health choices. Importantly, many CAMFED Association members have become champions of sustainable agriculture in their communities. 14 young women who attended a tailored six-week course in Sustainable Agriculture, which we developed with EARTH University in Costa Rica, are cascading their knowledge to thousands of community members.

Esnath on a field trip with EARTH University in Costa Rica, evaluating the effect of Black Sigatoka on organic banana plantations.

In Zambia, the Ministry of Agriculture, so impressed with their knowledge, partnered with CAMFED to support them to travel to five districts to spread their expertise amongst farmers in remote areas. And this year, Senior Chief Nkula, Kafula Musungu II of Muchinga Province, made a gift of land to the CAMFED Association. It will allow young women to practice and teach sustainable agriculture while growing food for school meals, reducing drop-outs due to hunger.

And my CAMFED Association sister Esnath, another young woman from my country on a full degree scholarship at EARTH University, is planning to create a sustainable farm model to help in the empowerment of rural communities in Zimbabwe.

Together they are showing that the right approach to girls’ education creates young rural women who not only have smaller families, but are activists for change — political, personal, communal, and environmental!

When leadership is lacking from traditional spaces, a major focus in the global debate on climate change must be the promotion of girls and women’s rights in sub-Saharan Africa. All of our futures are at stake.



This blog was first published in the Huffington Post on 11 August 2017.

Fiona Mavhinga was one of the first young women supported by CAMFED in Zimbabwe. She is a lawyer, and a founding member of the CAMFED Association. Today she leads on the development of the network, which grew to more than 150,000 by the end of 2019, as a direct result of CAMFED’s investment in girls’ education. CAMFED Association members are activists working to secure girls’ right to education.

If you believe in what they do, get involved today.

Photo: Camfed/Mark Read


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