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This International Women’s Day, the theme #BeBoldForChange speaks beautifully to the young women in Camfed’s alumnae network — now more than 84,000 strong across sub-Saharan Africa — who have seized their education and are multiplying that opportunity for others.

Women whose leadership has galvanized action not just among other women, but their entire communities. Bold women who ensure that together we step up for those who need us most, and change the prospects for girls for good. Women like Nimatu:

I was raised in the North Gonja district in the Northern Region of Ghana. Growing up, life was hard. There was never enough money for my basic needs. Even though I was one of the most brilliant girls in school, I remember being sent home from time to time because my family couldn’t afford the fees. My parents wanted me to be in school; they just struggled to keep me there because they never had the chance to complete their education. I only had a single textbook, and I sold water in the market to support my education.

In spite of this, I was determined to stay in school and achieve my goals. As the first born and only girl in my family, I saw myself as a candle that would brighten my family’s future. And it was this that motivated me to continue to university. With Camfed’s support I succeeded.

I believe in girls’ education because it has a great multiplier effect.

Education has a great multiplier effect. I see it in CAMA and the girls I support. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

When I started university I joined the Camfed alumnae network — CAMA. I see CAMA as a vehicle for change and development, so even before you complete school you are always passionate to save your community. During the holidays, I worked with my fellow CAMA members to talk to parents in my region about the importance of girls’ education and the negative effects of child labor. I believe in girls’ education because it has a great multiplier effect. When you educate a man you educate an individual, when you educate a woman you educate a nation.

Leadership is not about what you have, but it is about your ability to put a smile on someone’s face.

Me with some of the high school girls I mentor. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

We CAMA members buy educational materials for students. We teach classes during the vacation. We carry out advocacy programs on teenage pregnancy, and the effect of drug abuse. We donate to the orphanage and to the aged. Today, through the education I have acquired, I support my younger brother who is in nursing training college. I pay his school fees. I am responsible for my sister’s school fees. Leadership is not about what you have, but it is about your ability to put a smile on someone’s face.

Two years ago I set up my own foundation called ‘Hope for that child’. My aim is to motivate students to stay in school and do well at school. I work with community members who advise me. In the early days it seemed impossible for me to go so far, but, I quote Nelson Mandela, it always seems impossible until it is done.

The cassava leaves that I harvest will be used to raise the standard of education in my community

Me and my uncle at my farm. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

In 2015, I organized an award ceremony because I think it is so important to recognize the academic achievements of students in my community. 500 students participated, and 30 students from 15 schools received awards. My uncle was so proud of me, he gave me four acres of land to support my foundation. I intend to use it for the cultivation of maize and cassava, and the yield will be used to support education, especially girl child education.

Most girls are passionate about school but they don’t have the necessary support to keep them in school to complete their course of studies.

I saw the need to form a girls’ club in the first and only Senior High School in my district. I named it The Changemakers’ Club because I see today’s generation as changemakers. I’ve started mentoring these girls — more than 60 of them — sharing my life experiences, encouraging them to appreciate their potential. We talk about sexual reproductive health and the effects of teenage pregnancy.

It’s important to talk with girls about reproductive health, so they can make informed decisions. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

The main challenge for girls in this community is financial. Most girls are passionate about school but they don’t have the necessary support to complete their course of studies. They drop out of school for lack of material support, for lack of someone to talk to, and that is why many are getting pregnant. When you go to town you see them sitting by the roadside. That is why I have taken this bold initiative to work with these girls. I see mentorship and career guidance as the key to helping them unleash their potential. I do this through stakeholders in this community, including our Chief and the school Headmaster.

Me meeting with the school headmaster, Chief and Elders at the school where I mentor girls. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

Though they don’t have financial support for me, they keep advising me, they give me the direction as to where to go and how to do it. The Headmaster, Mr. Bukari, says that I stand tall among my peers. He says I am a role model. He says that some girls who dropped out of school have decided to come back to be like me. They say ‘if Nimatu can be like this why can’t I too be that.’ I am so happy that he is proud of me, and so is the Chief. To make them smile, it matters.

Education has changed my world and it can change everyone’s world.

“Nimatu is seen as somebody very important in our community. We are proud of her. She has let us know that girls’ education is important. Now everybody wants their girls to go to school.” (Chief Iddrissu, school governor) Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

I don’t have financial resources but I think there will be a day when I will get that support. That is what keeps me moving and working with this group of individuals. I see children as development. It is said that development is not about the infrastructure you see, but the empowerment you give to the individual. My long term vision is for everyone to be educated and empowered.

It is said that education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world. I truly believe this because education has changed my life. It has changed my world and it can change everyone’s world.

 


 

To find out more, see Nimatu’s story on video and join Camfed to support more girls to go to school, succeed and lead, visit our International Women’s Day page.

Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed

 

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