New findings from CAMFED’s youth enterprise program in rural Zambia reveal widespread benefits of business training, grants and mentoring for female school leavers.

Evidence from “Shaping My Future” (2013-2017), which supported 3,922 marginalized young women in CAMFED’s alumnae network (CAMA), shows it enabled women to break out of the poverty trap and to support 10,000 children in school.

We are really respected, we are really role models. Even the chief see us as role models, because we are empowered and give back to the community. We are seen as hard workers as well… it’s a strong group of young, rural women.

CAMA entrepreneur, Zambia

Delivered by CAMA, the youth enterprise program has been designed to help young women navigate the transition from school to safe and fulfilling livelihoods. Support is provided at a time when school leavers remain vulnerable to early marriage and exploitation, as they seek ways to help provide for their families. Experienced CAMA leaders step in to provide training in business and financial literacy, alongside sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights. Participants are supported to develop business plans and receive seed grants to launch a new enterprise. They also benefit from peer support from other young women in the CAMA network  and business mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs.

Five years after the “Shaping My Future” program launched, a team of Zambian Monitoring and Evaluation enumerators surveyed young women who had participated in the program. The survey data provides evidence of sustained impact on business incomes, family wellbeing and young women’s leadership and activism to support the next generation of children in school.

Key statistics:

  • Over 3,000 women-led businesses established
  • Nearly 4,000 new jobs created in local communities
  • Over 10,000 children supported in education by participants
  • 68% of participants increased household spending on education, health and food
  • 53% of entrepreneurs are saving regularly
  • Participants gained control over key life choices and avoided early marriage

Before the program 25% of young women took part in family spending decisions, but afterwards 97% were involved

Catherine Boyce, Director of Enterprise Development at CAMFED, commented: “Members of the CAMA network graduate from school full of passion and drive to help their families and lead change in their communities. CAMFED’s holistic approach to training, business grants and mentoring equips young women with the resources and skills to provide for themselves and their families and to engage confidently in decision-making, whether it relates to how to allocate their business income or who and when to marry. Our evidence demonstrates that the combination of secondary education and enterprise support is enabling young women in rural Africa to break free from the trap of poverty. They can now afford to send their own children to school and are leading the way in supporting the most disadvantaged with financial support for education and action to tackle child marriage.”

By establishing their own businesses, young women gain a vital source of income and create new jobs in their communities. For many of the entrepreneurs surveyed, their businesses are still running and growing several years after the initial training. With the profits they have been able to increase household spending on food, education and health. Most participants in the program now save regularly, using the funds to re-invest in their enterprise, to further their education, or to face an emergency such as a member of their family needing urgent medical care.

A new generation of leaders and philanthropists

Importantly, the program also improved the confidence and self-esteem of young women, who are shifting gender norms as businesswomen and leaders in their communities. Being able to provide for their families is key to their confidence and self-worth, allowing them to gain status both in their households and in the wider community. 92% of the group now see themselves as role models, and with their increased status and income, are expanding their reach. Women with established businesses support on average  4.6 children with school going costs, and the group has reached an estimated 11,000 people with financial literacy training.

Mwamba (right) uses the proceeds from her business to support the school-going costs of orphaned children

I have used the business profits to pay for my young brother who is completing grade 12 this year. I feel proud and important.

CAMA entrepreneur, Zambia

The CAMA network, now 120,000 strong, is leading the way in scaling this approach to enterprise development across rural communities to create new jobs and support more children in school in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi.

Read the full report: “Young Women’s Livelihoods and Leadership – Outcomes and Learning from CAMFED’s Shaping My Future Program in Zambia 2013-2017

Find out more about CAMFED’s Youth Enterprise Programs.

Thank you to our generous recent donors

Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty


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