The Neglected Capital in the Fight against Poverty and Injustice

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Watch Ann Cotton’s 5-minute presentation at the World Economic Forum 2015, discussing how CAMFED unlocks the rich capital in poor communities in support of girls’ education

In a 5-minute presentation at the World Economic Forum Ann Cotton describes CAMFED’s approach to tackling economic exclusion. (Video provided by World Economic Forum)

CAMFED founder Ann Cotton travels to Davos this week, where she will ask the world to rethink what capital means in the fight against poverty and injustice. Armed with thousands of stories from over 20 years of CAMFED’s work in girls’ education, she describes the transformational leadership provided by young African women graduates in the poorest districts of sub-Saharan Africa. Camfed alumnae in the CAMA network are helping to develop the rich capital innate in their communities, using their experience of exclusion, and their empathy, to impact on the lives of generations, delivering scalable, sustainable change at personal, community, school, national and international level.

The world needs to listen to and learn from poor communities,” says Ann. “CAMFED’s program was designed by the communities we serve, and has proven its scalability. In 1991, I supported 32 girls to go to school. By 2014, CAMFED, our graduates and their communities had directly supported over 1.2 million girls through school.

Saturday, 24 January, 9 AM CET: “Developing Capital for Girls’ Education in Africa”
On Saturday, 24 January, Ann Cotton, who is attending the World Economic Forum as a Schwab Foundation social entrepreneur, will lead a discussion on systemic change during the Schwab IdeasLab event “Sparking Systemic Change with Social Entrepreneurs.” In a succinct presentation, Ann will focus on the rich capital in poor communities, which is often neglected or ignored by international organizations, rather than developed for grassroots-led change. Ann will describe how CAMFED’s holistic program creates respectful partnerships with communities, unlocking the knowledge, experience and empathy of families, local leaders, schools, students and officials in support of girls’ education, women’s leadership, and systemic change. The session taking place in the Flüela IdeasLab in the Congress Centre will be recorded for worldwide dissemination.

Financial Capital as a Trigger for Deepening Social, Institutional and Knowledge Capital
“We understand that poverty is the greatest barrier to girls’ education in the communities in which we work. We also understand that the way to build robust, transparent and sustainable systems of support is to involve all the people and institutions that have influence over a girls’ education and future life choices,” says Ann. This is the beginning of systemic change, where financial capital helps to grow social bonds, develop and improve institutions, and spread and build knowledge – all important forms of capital, which together help communities to generate new financial capital.

Experience of Exclusion Creates Powerful Mentors, Role Models and Philanthropists
“In sub-Saharan Africa CAMFED is the community, and our young women graduates in the over 24,000-strong CAMA alumnae network, set to grow to 130,000 by 2019, are leading systemic change,” says Ann. “They are growing all forms of capital. They are using their personal experience of poverty and exclusion to mentor the next generation of vulnerable girls; to build bridges between families, civil society organizations, and government institutions; and to build social enterprises that lift their families out of poverty. The communal commitment to education, equality and justice releases a virtuous cycle of giving back.”

In 2013 alone, CAMFED’s graduates and their communities supported 167,900 children in school through local philanthropic activities. This includes bringing child mothers back to school, volunteering to provide nutritious school meals, mentoring grieving children, and helping needy children with school fees and supplies.


Runyararo Mashingaidze, one of the first girls supported by CAMFED through secondary school, who is now a medical doctor, saving lives daily 

Inspirational, Transformational Leaders – from Local to International Level
At Davos, Ann describes some of the young African women who are changing institutions from the inside. She introduces Ruka Yaro De-Liman, a leader of CAMA in Ghana, who last year became one of 500 Mandela Washington Fellows, and one of just 36 to receive an award in recognition of her entrepreneurship and community activism. Ruka set up an expanding agriculture and poultry business in her community, and plans to create jobs for thousands of young people in Africa. Ann then presents Abigail Kaindu, who had to drop out of school after losing both her parents at a young age. Having completed school with CAMFED’s support, she is now a role model and mentor in her community, and part of the Youth Advocacy Group advising the UN Secretary General on global education policy. She describes Runyararo Mashingaidze, one of the first girls supported by CAMFED through secondary school, who is now a medical doctor, saving lives daily. And she introduces Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED’s Regional Executive Director in Africa. Angeline, one of the first graduates of CAMFED’s program, and co-founder of CAMA, uses her experience of poverty and marginalization to lead programs that ensure hundreds of thousands more girls have the same opportunity she did. Angeline recently addressed the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C on local leadership in girls’ education, alongside First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Only Way to Solve Global Problems
“These are just four of thousands of young women who bear testament to the fact that we cannot solve global problems unless we listen to and learn from poor communities, respect and develop their capital, and support millions of young women to change institutions from the inside,” says Ann. “CAMFED will be supporting one million more girls and their communities on this journey over the next five years. We ask the world to join us.”

Thank you to our generous recent donors

Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty


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Günter Kowa €200

Terri Chegwidden $35

Paul and Laura Lemaire $250

Lucas Ovsyannikov $500

Lucy Lake £300

Joyce Heard $350

Melvin and Ellen Moore $1000

Catheryn Sproull $10

Leane Bucceri $15

Jeffrey Tang $5000

Richard Foskett £10

Constance Khananzour $10

Zoe Cam Nhi Huynh $19

Matthew Reid-Schwartz $100