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Rural businesses as a pathway to independence, leadership and philanthropy

After school, graduates in rural Africa have few job opportunities. Yet young educated women from disadvantaged families feel a deep responsibility to provide for their siblings and to support other family members. The young women themselves continue to be at risk of early marriage and exploitation as they seek financial security.

Through its youth enterprise programs, CAMFED is dedicated to improving the futures of young women beyond the classroom, including in climate-smart agriculture. Generating an income not only supports young women’s economic independence, their life choices, and the prospects for their families; it also enables them to expand their reach as activists and philanthropists.

CAMFED works to open up new pathways for young women through training and mentorship programs, and provides access to seed money grants or small loans.

  • CAMFED Association leaders with business expertise provide training, financial knowledge and life skills for the next generation of graduates. Young women learn how to plan a business, make a profit and to save money. They also learn about their rights, and gain important sexual and reproductive health knowledge.
  • Through partnerships with organizations like Kiva, and through our own group savings and loan schemes, young women can gain access to the funds they need to grow or expand their businesses, in a context where women in rural areas are often considered ‘unbankable,’ because property and land ownership typically devolves to the men in the family.
  • And through partnerships with government, enterprise agencies and vocational colleges, we connect young women to additional help, resources and opportunities to gain the skills and advice they need.
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Video: Championing Women’s Economic Empowerment

Every year spent in school increases a girl’s future earnings. With her income, she’ll invest in her children’s health & education, helping to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. We are championing economic empowerment to help young women lift themselves and their families out of poverty, contributing to jobs and prosperity in their communities, and enabling them to support their own, as well as other children, to go to school. 

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Creating jobs in a challenging context

In the countries where CAMFED works, many young people struggle to find jobs and financial security after they finish high school. Challenges include limited formal job prospects in rural areas, where many reside, and intense competition for well-paid positions in towns and cities.

  • 10M

    In Africa, over 10 million young people join the workforce each year, but the current growth trends only produce around 3 million formal jobs annually.

    World Bank (2023)

  • 62M

    Approximately 62 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to be NEET (not in education, employment, or training), which accounts for over a quarter of the region's youth population.

    International Labor Organization (2024)

  • 60%

    Nearly 60% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are employed, but they live in households that fall below the international poverty threshold of US$3.65 per person per day, categorized as "moderately poor."

    International Labor Organization (2024)

Enterprise Development

Our impact so far: CAMFED supports young women to develop skills and create job opportunities, benefiting themselves and their communities.

  • 103K

    By the end of 2022, 103,408 CAMFED Association entrepreneurs had started a business, bringing quality food, products, services and jobs to rural communities, and using profits to send more children to school.

  • 88K

    By the end of 2023, 88,080 women-led businesses had been reached with training, financial skills and resources by Business and Agriculture Guides.

  • 187K

    Between 2020 and 2022, 186,791 jobs (including self-employment) were created by CAMFED Association members after taking part in enterprise training.

  • 78%

    After participating in CAMFED's Enterprise Development Program, an average of 78% of female entrepreneurs in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe reported an increase in their income, with 75% making a profit.

The Multiplier Effect of enterprise

By establishing rural enterprises, young women gain a vital source of income and create jobs for themselves and others.

  • Their profits enable them to increase family spending on food, education and health.
  • They gain confidence, self-esteem and status in their communities by being able to provide for themselves and their families and are important female role models.
  • The businesswomen save regularly and use their savings to invest in business growth and further education, as well as giving them a safety net in the event of emergencies.
  • They also use their income to support children in school; increasing the value of their philanthropy and the number of children assisted as their businesses grow.
I’m super proud of my business because of the impact it’s making in the lives of rural women in Ghana. My organic shea butter enterprise is supporting local shea producers, creating employment opportunities for the youth and empowering women economically. The business is geared towards reducing poverty, reducing hunger, and also promoting quality education....My profits are used to provide menstrual products for the less privileged and also educational materials for orphans and the needy.
Portia, Shea Butter Entrepreneur, CAMFED Association Ghana

Our Guide Programs: Unlocking young women’s potential through peer-led training

CAMFED trains graduates in our CAMFED Association as specialist Guides. These young women then share their expertise in areas like life skills, finance, business and climate-smart agriculture with their peers, helping more young women into financial independence.

Our programs are designed and delivered in partnership with the young women of the CAMFED Association, who understand the immense pressure graduates face. They want to succeed in life and provide for their families, but there are few job opportunities in disadvantaged rural communities.  We have worked together to develop programs to help young women navigate these barriers and provide the support they need to build independent and successful lives. These include:

Transition Guides

Transition Guides step in as girls approach secondary school graduation, providing mentoring and skills support to help them navigate the leap between school and work or further study.

  • 13K

    By the end of 2023, 12,712 Transition Guides had been trained, supporting thousands of young women into independence.

  • 303K

    By the end of 2023, Transition Guides had already supported 303,115 young women school graduates to start businesses, seek employment, and access further education.

  • 83%

    Across Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, an average of 83% of young women transition towards a secure livelihood (through paid employment, entrepreneurship or further study) within 12 months of completing the Transition Program.

Business Guides

Business Guides are CAMFED Association members who have run successful enterprises themselves, and become mentors to their peers who are first starting out in business.

  • 4K

    By the end of 2023, 3,989 Business Guides had been trained to provide financial skills training, context-specific technical expertise and advice to young women entrepreneurs across Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

  • 79K

    Between 2020 and 2023, 78,844 women-led businesses had been supported by CAMFED Business Guides.

  • 15K

    Between 2020 and 2022, CAMFED helped link 15,169 female entrepreneurs with additional forms of business support like loans, grants, training and marketing advice. This kind of support can help young female entrepreneurs gain access to local markets, learn new skills, expand their businesses, and support themselves and their families.

Climate-Smart Agriculture Guides

As extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones increasingly affect the communities we serve, we are accelerating the growth of our Agriculture Guide Program, supporting communities to build resilience to climate shocks and reduce malnutrition by equipping young women with the skills to develop thriving agricultural enterprises.

  • 1.2K

    By the end of 2023, 1,191 CAMFED Association members had trained as climate-smart Agriculture Guides.

  • x10

    Each trained Agriculture Guide reaches at least 10 young women in her local district with training in climate-smart agriculture. Together they reach hundreds more community members and farmers, helping build climate resilience in their communities

  • >100K

    By the end of 2022, Agriculture Guides and CAMFED Association Community Trainers had reached more than 100,000 people with vital information on climate-smart farming techniques.

My name is Zayana, I am from Kibiti in Tanzania. I am part of a group beekeeping business with my fellow CAMFED Association members Hawa and Biumbwa. Through training I’ve learned how to make other products besides honey, such as beeswax body oil and candles which can help me earn extra income. I want to be a good beekeeper and produce a lot of bee products, but I will also be training other girls and women groups who want to be involved in beekeeping.

Meet more young women entrepreneurs from across Africa

Learn how women’s sustainable businesses are transforming lives

Rehema-Edmund-Mponda-56351-CAMA-Kilosa-TZ-May-2023

StoryTanzania

Rehema

The value I have added to myself, my family and community shows me that I am a game changer. My name is Rehema and I am an example of a girl from a marginalized family who was supported by CAMFED and is now a successful agriculture entrepreneur in Tanzania.

Happiness-Mpofu-98821-CAMA-Lupane-ZIM_Feb-2022

StoryZimbabwe

Happiness

I'm Happiness, a CAMFED Association member and entrepreneur from Lupane District in Zimbabwe. With training from CAMFED I started a mobile phone repair business. My business is thriving and I'm hoping to diversify into solar power and batteries. Now I'm a role model in my community and I teach other women how to use and embrace technology.

Dorcas-Apoore-722491-ASIGE-Basket-Weaving-Entrepreneur-Bolgatanga-GH-Mark-Read-Nov-2019-036 (1)

StoryGhana

Dorcas

I'm Dorcas, from Bolgatanga in Ghana and a member of the CAMFED Association. I grew up in poverty but with CAMFED support I was able to attend university. Now I'm giving back to my community through my basket weaving businesses, employing over 429 skilled women artisan weavers and more than 80 men engaged in leatherwork, working as part of my cooperative.

Research and Impact of our past programs

Learn how our past interventions have made real impact to the lives of rural women and their communities

listing-image_Mercellina_CAMA_TG_GH

Sustainable business opportunities for women in northern Ghana

In collaboration with the International Labor Organization and the Mastercard Foundation we explored the agricultural value chains in northern Ghana that offer the greatest potential for female entrepreneurs to create employment opportunities. The findings, which show that groundnut (peanut) and hand-crafted shea butter value chains offer significant potential, were presented at the 2021 CAMFED-Mastercard Foundation Annual Research and Learning Summit. 

Mwamba-Kasoma-CAMA-Samfya-ZM-25-Sep-2017-DSC_8431

Youth Enterprise in Zambia

The ‘Shaping My Future’ program was delivered by CAMFED Association members in Zambia between 2013 and 2017. 3,922 young women who had been supported by CAMFED at school participated in the program soon after they graduated from secondary school. Participants received business and life skills training and were assisted to develop business plans. The report details outcomes and learnings from tracking the program over five years.

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To celebrate World Bee Day (May 20) we’re introducing some of the young women in the CAMFED Association who are trained beekeepers, or apiarists. With new practical skills of beekeeping and honey production, alongside business knowledge, the young women are championing honey production, and are using business profits to create sustainable livelihoods.

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CAMFED partners with Fairtrade

CAMFED is excited to announce our new partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation to certify women-led shea butter businesses in Northern Ghana.

The enterprises are spearheaded by CAMFED Association members— young African women educated with CAMFED support — who are reinvesting profits into their communities to support more girls through school.

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CAMFED Ghana boosts young women’s entrepreneurial and leadership ambitions

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Training for 1,250 CAMFED Association entrepreneurs in Tanzania

In 2020, young women from 32 districts in Tanzania were supported to acquire skills in record keeping, financial planning and more, to enable them to grow their businesses. 

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Cummins Zambia partners with CAMFED to empower 500 women entrepreneurs

Cummins Zambia has partnered with CAMFED as part of its global Cummins Powers Women initiative. Together, we are supporting 500 young women over three years to become financially independent.

Thank you to our generous recent donors

Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty

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Niall Doherty $310

Rob Nickerson £350

Niall Doherty $215

David WOLFSON $750

Wendy Wallbrunn $40

Jonathan Wilkinson £50

Albert Zabin $200

Steve Osman $100

Roe & Maggie Stone $100

Betty Schwab $25

Jonathan Brody $40

Bonne Mogulescu $150

William Wiedmann $150

Adrianna Timmons $360

Lizbeth Garcia $10