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Brooke Hutchinson

Ghana,  Zambia,  Zimbabwe,  Tanzania,  United States

In their blog for Africa Youth Day (November 1st), four members of our sisterhood of girls’ education leaders in the CAMFED Association reflect on a momentous day spent in New York City and in Michelle Obama’s company.

Barbara Mensah from Ghana, Dorcas Lukwesa from Zambia, Getruda Amos from Tanzania and Chelsea Chamara from Zimbabwe came together on October 25th, 2022 for a luncheon to celebrate the launch of the “Get Her There” initiative with former First Lady Michelle Obama. CAMFED is a longstanding member of the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance and a “Get Her There” campaign partner

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We were proud to represent our CAMFED Sisterhood in New York!

We were all supported by CAMFED in our education, and joined the CAMFED Association of women leaders – a pan-African Sisterhood – in our respective countries. This was our first time meeting each other and visiting the “Big Apple” from the four different universities across the US where we’re studying.  The distance from home can’t weaken the bond we share or make us forget our passion as a CAMFED Sisterhood: To take action so that more girls and young women in our rural communities can succeed in education, reach their full potential, and rise by lifting up others.

 

Tubi Retta from Obama Foundation with CAMFED Association members Chelsea, Getruda, Dorcas, Barbara and Brooke Hutchinson at Get Here There launch event

Tubi Retta from the Obama Foundation Girls Opportunity Alliance joined Chelsea, Getruda, Dorcas, Barbara and CAMFED USA’s Executive Director Brooke Hutchinson on the red carpet at the Manhattan Center

All of us were excited to be in the Manhattan Center with so many powerful women. We were met by Tubi Retta of the Obama Foundation and CAMFED USA’s Executive Director, Brooke Hutchinson.

During the event, the inspirational Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, Melinda French Gates, and Wanjiru Wahome spoke with CNN correspondent Sara Sidner about our collaboration to empower adolescent girls through education and to help end child marriage through the “Get Her There” campaign.  

We couldn’t agree more with Mrs. Obama’s words:

When girls don’t learn, we all suffer.

Michelle Obama

And Melinda summed it up perfectly:

Investing in girls is the central issue of our time.

Melinda French Gates

Wanjiru, Executive Director of Samburu Girls Foundation, energized us when she said:

There is power in supporting girls; there is power in you.

Wanjiru Wahome

The power of educated youth

We all know what it is to suffer. Now that we’re educated, we have the collective power to make sure girls in our communities don’t face the hurdles we did before we received CAMFED support. In New York, the four of us were thrilled to represent 208,000 young women in our Sisterhood across Africa. Here’s a little more about us, and our reflections on the day:

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I'm Getruda, and I have the capability to influence positive change in this world

CAMFED started supporting my education in 2015 and has continued supporting me ever since. In 2016, CAMFED Tanzania helped me secure a scholarship to the United World College in Eswatini called Waterford Kamhlaba UWC. I am currently pursuing a Psychology degree at Luther College in Iowa. 

My take away from the event with Mrs. Obama is that most of what girls need is just someone to believe in them, to take them to school and break the barriers that come into their way so that they can reach for their full potential, and that is the work which cannot be accomplished by just one person, we need each other to accomplish this work.

Today’s event made me think about how CAMFED helped me to attain higher education and it also made me realize my own responsibilities in making sure that I use my own skills to make help every girl I can in order to reach their full potential.

I would tell my 15-year-old self to “just keep pushing and do not forget to keep believing because the future is better than what you ever imagined.”

Read transcript

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I'm Dorcas, and I am proud to be part of the CAMFED Sisterhood

CAMFED supported my secondary school education in Zambia, and I went on to study at Earth University in Costa Rica. I was invited to continue my research at Auburn University in Alabama, where I am pursuing my Master of Science in Horticulture. I’m passionate about promoting food security in rural communities while ensuring the implementation of climate smart agricultural food production systems. I founded a social venture known as Mobile Aquaponics, dedicated to mitigating the impact of climate change while supporting female smallholder farmers in rural areas of Nchelenge district. With the help of the my CAMFED Association sisters in Zambia, we offer training in implementing small-scale aquaponics systems (circular systems farming vegetables and fish) constructed with locally available materials like bamboo in order to improve agricultural production and livelihoods and address the climate crisis.

My takeaway from the event with Mrs. Obama is that every girl on this planet is born with a flame which can either be supported or systematically stopped if we do not Get Her There where she can learn. Therefore, there is need to come together and put the resources needed to understand who these girls are, and what they can do in order to constantly fill their flames with love, hope and believing in their possibilities because “when girls don’t learn, we all suffer” (Michelle Obama).

Empowering girls is about breaking the barriers and doing the things that accelerate them so that they can have their full power to become who they want to be in the society. But in order to achieve this we need to empower the community around them with knowledge and understanding of the importance of educating girls and making sure the community organizations that are involved in this work have the funding and resources needed to finish the work.

Today’s event made me think of my experiences as a small girl coming from a community where education is often a privilege for the rich. My dreams were often limited by what my family could actually afford to support me with, but when I started receiving the CAMFED support nothing could stop me from dreaming big with a family and a community that believed in me.

I am proud to be part of CAMFED Sisterhood because the best approach to empowering more girls in education is working together as multipliers which is what we do as a network.

I would tell my 15-year-old self to continue dreaming big and not let her current circumstances to dim her shine, because she is capable of many things.

Read video transcript

Watch my vlog of the event
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I'm Chelsea, and I am beyond passionate about the wellbeing of women and their empowerment

I’m from Zimbabwe, and I have been and will always be an active CAMFED Association member who will forever be grateful to CAMFED, which helped to shape my future by putting me through education when my future almost seemed impossible. I am beyond passionate about the wellbeing of women and their empowerment, and I believe through agriculture I can contribute my small efforts in empowering them.

I am currently in my third year, doing an internship working under the Crop Sciences department, specifically in Corn/Maize breeding, at the University of Illinois. I am also a poet.

My takeaway from the event with Mrs. Obama was that everyone has their own story to tell, and all the speakers, including Michelle Obama, faced situations that made them want to help others in the same predicament. I also have my own story to tell and it just encouraged me to change someone else’s future by helping them in any way I can.

I’m a huge fan of Michelle Obama! The thing that inspired me the most was seeing so many powerful women come together and come up with the solutions on how to Get Her There – how to get the girl child back to school. 

I’m very interested in securing the education of girls, and have already helped a few people back home, but we have more to do to secure girls’ futures, and thanks to CAMFED we can use our skills and expertise to help our communities.

I would tell my 15-year-old self that whatever you want to do in life, you can do it! The most important thing is to believe in yourself – don’t only expect others to believe in you – first believe in yourself!

Read video transcript

Hear my takeaways from the event
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I'm Barbara, and empowering girls academically and helping them flourish is my passion

CAMFED supported my college education in the Central Region of Ghana. I served my campus CAMFED Association Chapter and my community CAMFED Association Cluster as the Vice Chairperson and Chairperson, respectively. I founded Pacesetters Girls Foundation during my freshman year in college. It is an organization which seeks to empower girls in rural Ghana and support them to do well academically, helping them to be on top of their sexual and reproductive health as well provide them with a sisterhood to flourish even as they engage in community service projects. Though I have been in the United States for over a year, the foundation is still up and running. That’s my passion and I don’t think distance will make me forget about it.

I completed my undergraduate education at University of Cape Coast where I secured a Bachelors of Education in Management, which was fully funded by the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship at CAMFED Ghana. Now I am studying for my Masters of Development Engineering at the University of Berkeley in California.

My takeaway from the event with Mrs. Obama was my surprise about how much harm COVID-19 had done with regards to negatively impacting the girl child. During the panel discussion, I felt a sense of urgency to do more than what has been done so far. I realized there’s so much more to be done and we all need to come together to do this. No one person or entity can do it, we need all hands on deck and it has to happen NOW!

The event made me think about how I sat at home for two years with no hope of getting to college until CAMFED came to my rescue. I was wondering how my life would have been now and I was very grateful for the opportunity to pursue higher education. I also felt proud of myself for the work I’ve done so far with my foundation in Ghana, but also felt that was just a pin drop and more needs to be done.

What I will tell my 15-year-old self is:  “I’m proud of you.” My 15-year-old self knew what she wanted – higher education. This is why she had to go back to her middle school alma mater to wash the plates of her juniors in order to get money to pay her admission fees to high school. She had passion and fiercely pursued it. “Dear 15-year-old self, I’m proud of you and all the things you went through at that age. Reminiscing on all what you survived during those times made me realized my inner strength, which I believe I desperately need to lean on to go through this stage of my life so that I can stand up for more girls.”

Celebrating youth leadership across our movement

From one continent to another, today we celebrate African youth leadership across the globe. Meet more of our sisters giving it their all to ensure that girls secure their right to learn and lead:

Lisa-Lisah-Kandanda-217628-CAMA-Tertiary-Mongu-ZAM-People’s-Budget-Competition-Winner-September-2022

NewsZambia

Lisa from Zambia wins televised People’s Budget Competition 2022

We’re so  proud of Lisa Kandanda, a member of our CAMFED Association of women leaders and a Public Administration student at university, who has won the televised People’s Budget Competition 2022 in Zambia! She triumphed over two other finalists and hundreds of competition entrants aged between 18 and 35, who were invited to submit their proposals for a national budget by The Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia. Lisa received support from CAMFED to go to secondary school and now university. Her victory is not only a personal one, but is also a victory for every once-marginalized young woman, who through education can be seen and heard, and her expertise recognized.

Angie-Murimirwa-Soledad-Obrien-Hilton-Humanitarian-Prize-Symposum-Beverly-Hills-CA-USA_Oct-21-2022

Soledad O'Brien chats to Angeline Murimirwa at the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Symposium

When it comes to educating girls in rural Africa, we can’t think of a bigger expert or more nuanced thinker than Angie, who has LIVED poverty and exclusion. Co-founder and first Chair of our network of women leaders educated with CAMFED support, she now leads our global movement, and works with communities, schools, national governments and partners across the globe to change the status quo for women and girls for good, creating a more equitable world for us all. On October 21, 2022, she sat down with journalist, producer and philanthropist Soledad O’Brien in Beverly Hills.

Cindy-Ateng-770006-and-Charlotte-Ofobiri-1072957-CAMA-Entrepreneurs-CitiTV-GH-April-2022_5

NewsGhana

Young women entrepreneurs in the spotlight on Citi TV Ghana

Youth leading in business is what the Citi TV series with CAMFED Ghana’s young women entrepreneurs is all about! We are in awe of our sisters across Ghana, who have succeeded against the odds to establish and grow innovative businesses and social enterprises, creating jobs, supplying nourishing food to their communities, and breaking down the gender stereotypes that hold us back. As role models and mentors to thousands of girls and young women, they are leading by example, and bringing boys and men with them.

Zeolia-Mlimakifi-53167-CAMA-Business-Guide-Kilolo-TZ-King-Philanthropies-April-2022

Meet sis Zeolia, supporting youth businesses in Tanzania

“I have been a CAMFED Association District Chairperson for over three years, working together with my fellow CAMFED Association members. Together, we support vulnerable and marginalized girls and young women to access education, economic empowerment opportunities, and grow to turn the tide of poverty. I have always been interested in providing assistance to fellow CAMFED Association and community members so that other rural women can operate businesses for income and support their families.” 

Tawonga-Zakeyu-Daudi-126043-CAMA-Tertiary-Earth-University-Machinga-MW

Hear from sis Tawonga in Malawi, a climate-smart Agriculture expert

“Working with CAMFED was my way of giving back by helping other girls get educated and see them become empowered and prosper in life. My work involves training CAMFED Association Agriculture Guides, especially in climate-smart Agriculture. They will in turn help other young women to grow their farms into profitable business, increase yields, profits and create jobs. We are reaching thousands more young women with the tools and skills to tackle climate change related problems, poverty, and malnutrition. This will also allow communities to get more involved in philanthropy, and support more girls through school.”

Sibusiso-Gandiwa-169330-CAMA-Tertiary-Kwekwe-ZIM-August-2022

Meet sis Sibusiso in Zimbabwe, our newest law graduate

“I was inspired by a woman called J. Masango, who came to my school during career guidance. She owned a law firm and told me that when you become a lawyer, you will always find something to do. Being an orphan, I felt I had a lot to do. I wanted to help support the relatives who had taken care of me growing up. As soon as I started at university I was motivated to give back. I offered free legal services and conducted community outreach with other students to make people aware of their legal rights. As a team we focused on children and women’s rights as they are the most vulnerable in society.”

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