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Girls’ education is the starting point for securing the rights of women and girls globally. Educating girls also unlocks women’s leadership for effective, concrete climate action, and helps build more resilient communities that are equipped to tackle the effects of climate change.

If we want to see a drastic improvement in the health and wealth of entire nations, and in our societies’ ability to face the impact of climate change, we need to make sure that women and girls have equitable access to quality education. This equips girls and women with the information, skills and resources to lead climate action at multiple levels: protecting themselves and their families; nurturing climate-smart farms and businesses; and bringing their powerful voices to decision-making at the family, community, national and global levels.

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Podcast: The feminist solution to climate change

This Sky News ClimateCast podcast features CAMFED Association leader Harriet Cheelo, and CAMFED’s Director for Enterprise Development, Catherine Boyce, interviewed by Anna Jones and Katerina Vittozzi. The episode looks at how girls and women are disproportionately affected by climate change, and how with the right resources, they can take a prominent role in tackling the effects of climate change.

Listen to the Sky News ClimateCast with CAMFED

Why climate action starts with girls’ education

Investing in girls’ education is one of the most powerful ways of tackling the climate emergency. It is the foundation for women’s equal participation in decision-making, green innovation, livelihoods and policy-making.

Educated women have the skills they need to run and grow sustainable businesses, especially in climate-smart agriculture. They can inspire community action to build climate resilience; innovate to adopt green technologies; and lead on local and global policy that changes the status quo. The result: increased prosperity, reduced carbon emissions, and improved adaptation and resilience to the effects of climate change, which are already being felt, especially in the world’s most marginalized communities. We know this not just from research data, but from more than 25 years of experience in Africa.

Without urgent action, climate change threatens to reverse decades of progress for women and girls.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, despite steady progress, 52 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa were excluded from school, with poverty as the main culprit. Now, as a consequence of COVID-19 and climate change, millions more girls and women in low-income countries, especially in the rural farming communities we serve, are at risk of never seeing the inside of a classroom, or failing to learn the basics when they get there.

When families lose their livelihoods because crops fail or are destroyed, or because travel restrictions mean that people can’t access markets to buy and sell goods, hunger and desperation take hold. In this scenario, girls are the first to be pushed out of school, taking on household duties and chores, helping to provide for the family, or marrying young so as to gain perceived security and reduce the burden on their families. This results in a lost generation of young women, open to abuse and ill health; without agency or control; and without the skills and resources to build a brighter future and tackle the effects of climate change – their limitless potential quashed. 

CAMFED is not standing idly by.

We support girls through school, and equip young women with the skills and resources to run sustainable businesses. 

CAMFED - Winners of the UN Global Climate Action Award 2019

On 26 September 2019, CAMFED received a UN Global Climate Action Award in recognition of African women’s leadership for climate-smart agriculture.

Our work results in educated women with agency, who can live healthier, more productive, and secure lives. They have healthier families, earn higher incomes, support the education of many more children in their communities, and can help build resilience to the effects of climate change, including through sustainable agriculture. Women leaders, actively connected through our peer network, are working together to support each other, and the next generation, to thrive and lead change. Together we tackle hunger, youth unemployment and insecurity, unlocking ever-growing local expertise.

Invest in a sustainable future, led by young women

Support CAMFED to educate another 5 million girls, create another 150,000 jobs through sustainable women-owned business, and grow our CAMFED Association to 280,000 women leaders, disrupting the status quo, identifying policy solutions, and changing the face of agriculture leadership and climate action.

Ignite change

Girls, Women and Climate Change

  • 33%

    Around one third of the young educated women in our CAMFED Association are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.

    CAMFED

  • 80%

    An estimated 80% of people displaced by climate change are women.

    UNDP (2016) Gender and Climate Change Policy Brief

  • 200M

    It is estimated that at least 200 million adolescent girls living in the poorest communities face a heightened risk from the effects of climate change

    Sims (2021) Education, Girls’ Education and Climate Change

How climate change pushes girls out of school

Climate change is already being felt across our partner communities in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with unpredictable weather patterns, floods and droughts reducing farming yields and threatening already insecure family incomes. Recent climate disasters faced by our clients include Cyclones Idai, Chalane and Eloise.

The result, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is food insecurity and hunger. When families don’t have the resources to feed their children, there is no money for school fees and supplies. As droughts persist, girls also have to walk ever longer distances to fetch water and firewood, meaning they have even less time and opportunity to go to school or study.  

 

Extreme weather also causes damage to roads, schools and infrastructure, disrupting learning. Children’s ability to concentrate in class and pass exams is further compromised by emotional trauma, as well as the physical ramifications of malnutrition.

Girls are the first to be withdrawn from school to help in the household and earn an income. Often, they are pushed into early marriage as a coping strategy, when families see no other choice. This increases girls’ risk of gender-based violence, early childbirth and serious health complications. It also spells the end of their education.

Research shows that girls and women excluded from education are more likely to suffer injury or death in climate-disasters; and for women farming or running rural businesses, the effects of climate change are layered on top of the existing resource and productivity gaps that they face.

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BBC Podcast: A classroom full of girls can save the world

“Women who are able to take part in work, business and politics can be the secret to boosting climate protection. Studies suggest that increasing the number of women in national parliaments can lead to stricter climate policies, fairer outcomes and lower emissions.”

– Dr Tamsin Edwards, Department of Geography, King’s College London on the BBC podcast “39 Ways to Save the Planet” with CAMFED’s Fiona Mavhinga and Esnath Divasoni

Listen to the BBC climate podcast with CAMFED

Why gender equity is at the core of effective climate action

Girls’ education, particularly secondary education, has been identified as the most important socioeconomic determinant in reducing vulnerability to weather-related disasters and extreme weather.

Kate Sims in Education, Girls’ Education and Climate Change (2021)

By supporting girls in school, and in the transition to secure livelihoods, we are investing in the next generation of children, as well as in effective, diverse leadership to shape policy solutions. Women’s leadership is associated with positive environmental action, as well as improved adaptation and resilience to climate disasters. In Gender and climate change: Do female parliamentarians make difference? Mavisakalyan and Tarverdi demonstrate that women’s political leadership is associated with more stringent climate policies and results in lower CO2 emissions, for example. Educated women are also better equipped to innovate and champion climate-smart technologies, and engage in national and international leadership for sustainable growth.

Climate Resilience through Girls’ Education

How we support young women to transition from exclusion to climate leadership

Educate:

CAMFED has joined forces with communities, education authorities, partners and supporters to build an unrivalled infrastructure that brings the most excluded girls into the school system, and provides the tailored support they need to learn and thrive. By educating girls we are investing in young people’s ability to adapt to the challenges caused by climate change. Educated women are better equipped to protect themselves and their families, to make choices that reduce carbon emissions, to champion climate-smart technologies; and to engage in national and international leadership for sustainable futures.

Prosper:

We support young women to adapt to the effects of climate change in the rural farming economies where they are based, and to build climate-smart livelihoods. Through investing in women’s further education, we are also equipping them to innovate and champion low carbon pathways to prosperity.

Lead Change:

Led by members of the CAMFED Association – a sisterhood of women leaders educated with CAMFED support – we are dismantling gender barriers to create a better, more sustainable future for us all. We support CAMFED Association members to be connected, to share expertise and lead change through our Guide Programmes and advocacy platforms. We are investing in effective, diverse leadership to shape policy solutions.

Meet some of the young women creating sustainable businesses and sharing climate-smart methods:

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Forget, Zimbabwe

“If a woman is gaining ground in education, she is also gaining ground in fighting climate change, and gaining ground in fighting gender inequality.”

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Cindy, Ghana

“For me, completing school was everything, because that meant that I was a step closer to what I really wanted to be: a leader, serving my community.”

Action by those with first-hand experience of exclusion and crisis

Our leaders in the CAMFED Association have intimate experience of the vulnerability resulting from poverty, and the effects of climate change on their communities. They are working together to:

  • Ensure that the most excluded girls become visible to local authorities, and that their rights are protected – so that girls and young women who are living in extreme poverty, as child brides, heading up households, or suffering abuse, are identified and supported in school and beyond
  • Deliver life skills sessions in schools – so girls can gain the skills and knowledge to live independent lives, with control over their bodies and choices, setting goals, and learning how to achieve them
  • Support study groups – so girls and young women have the tools they need to thrive in school, pass exams, and graduate
  • Act as mentors and role models –  so girls and young women can grow in confidence and aspirations, and work collectively to secure their rights
  • Share climate expertise and knowledge – so young women have the skills and resources to set up sustainable businesses, utilize climate-smart farming techniques, look after their health and wellbeing, and seize job and further education opportunities

Related News and Publications

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Young Women’s Grassroots Action on Climate Change

Meet some of the young women transforming their communities through climate action

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NewsZimbabwe

Agriculture Guide training takes place across Zimbabwe

CAMFED Guides are cascading Indigenous and innovative climate-smart farming techniques

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Educate Women & Girls to Protect this Planet

Cleopatras Worldwide spoke to Portia Kuffuor about CAMFED’s work and how educating girls protects our collective future.

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Why is girls’ education important for climate action?

Read Christina Kwauk’s Brookings blog about the importance of educating girls in low-income countries

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