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Economic development depends on girls’ education: Every year spent in school increases a girl’s future earnings. With her income, she’ll invest in her children’s health and education, helping to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for good.

Evidence shows that universal primary and secondary education could more than halve the number of people living in poverty worldwide – improving the lives of 420 million individuals. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions where inclusive, quality education could have the most transformative impact.

Poverty is the greatest barrier to girls accessing an education

While some countries have abolished school fees at primary and/or secondary level, household incomes often won’t stretch to covering the required school uniforms, stationery and other essentials. Where families have resources to support some but not all children, boys may be given priority, as they face fewer barriers to securing economic independence after school.

Girls’ exclusion from education leads to women’s exclusion from the economy

When we invest in girls and women, we transform entire nations

CAMFED supports girls beyond the school gates to become independent, influential women.

Through the CAMFED Association — our peer support and leadership network — we equip young women with financial literacy and business training, grants, mentoring and support.

Business Guides

Young women experienced in business, and in navigating the challenges and barriers imposed by gender and economic disadvantage in their communities, are trained as Business Guides, delivering a structured program of support to their peers.

Linkages to business support services

CAMFED also establishes linkages to business development services through our partnerships with local government, traditional authorities, private industry and financial service providers. These partners, in turn, can provide additional technical support, advice, and new opportunities for women to start and grow businesses. This multifaceted support is vital in a context where women are often expected to provide unpaid agricultural labor.

Learning from the young women we serve

Through surveys, research, and learning opportunities we listen and learn from CAMFED Association members running businesses, so that we can collectively support women to overcome the hurdles they face.

Flexibility in a crisis

The global pandemic further laid bare the need to respond flexibly to women’s needs — to address issues relating to loan repayments which can arise through health, economic, or climate crises; and to fortify young women’s livelihoods to withstand the longer term impacts of a crisis. This includes support to diversify businesses to meet local demand for goods and services, including basic sanitation supplies, and to pivot businesses to the agricultural sector and food production to tackle looming food insecurity.

Results from our youth enterprise program 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. They received a seed grant and mentoring to help them launch and grow their businesses. As a result:

  • 3K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program created 3,000 new businesses

  • 4K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program created 4,000 new jobs

  • 10K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program supported 10,000 children to go to school

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Watch the TED Talk on CAMFED Association entrepreneurs uplifting communities

CAMFED Executive Director Angeline Murimirwa introduces the revolutionary concept of ‘social interest,’ a whole new approach to lending, which allows young African secondary school graduates — considered ‘unbankable’ — to gain access to finance, paying forward their interest in service to vulnerable students and exponentially multiplying the impact of their loan.

This is the concept behind the flexible loan facility CAMFED makes available to Association members through our partner Kiva. As young women volunteer their time as Learner Guides and Transition Guides, for example, they can take the opportunity to grow rural businesses.

Watch Angie's TED Talk

When girls learn and women earn, everything changes

  • 33K

    33,481 members of the CAMFED Association have started a business so far, bringing high-quality food, clothing, hygiene products and more to rural communities.

  • 3

    Each member of the Association, on average, supports another three girls to go to school with her own resources. Our evidence shows this philanthropy increases proportionately with her profit margin.

  • 150K

    As part of an ambitious strategic plan we aim to create 150,000 new jobs so that more young women have secure livelihoods and more girls stay in school.

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