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Charity,
CAMA Leader & Teacher,
Zambia

Charity was born in a rural area of Zambia, where she grew up with her mother and seven siblings, including three sets of twins. Charity’s mother was divorced, and Charity helped her to raise the younger children. Knowing the importance of education, Charity’s mother worked hard as a single parent selling groceries to try and support her children’s schooling. Their lives were a daily struggle, and by the time Charity had completed Grade 12, at 16 years old, there was no way for her to continue her education.

“Without education, my life wouldn’t have been like this. I wouldn’t be here telling my story, looking back at all my achievements.”

After a few years, in an effort to help provide for the family, Charity travelled from her rural community into a town to seek opportunities. When she arrived to stay with relatives, they considered her options and reluctantly decided that she should get married. It was hoped that her husband would provide the daily necessities that were often out of reach for them. However, after a short period of marriage, Charity’s husband left her alone, pregnant and terrified about what her future might hold.

Charity moved back to live with her mother, who welcomed her home and helped her deliver her son. In 2007, Charity started volunteering with the CAMFED Alumnae Association (CAMA), whose members were active as change-makers and philanthropists in her community. She joined this peer support network of young women from marginalized backgrounds, and soon became a valued member of their group. She attended training sessions on leadership and entrepreneurship skills, which increased her confidence and gave her a renewed sense of hope and purpose.

“CAMA is a peer support network where I’ve gained a lot of sisters, from different families, from different countries and communities. They really support me emotionally, physically, and motivate me in the things that we do.”

Through volunteer work with CAMA, Charity was given access to a small loan enabling her to start a homeware business. In 2010, she was selected to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Leadership and Enterprise, Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET Ahead) Initiative. This led to her selection as a CAMA Core Trainer, and in this role Charity has spread her knowledge of financial literacy and entrepreneurship to hundreds of other CAMA members across her district.

Charity was elated when, in 2012, CAMFED Zambia supported her to return to her studies. She enrolled at Mufulira Professional College and has qualified as a teacher, specializing in Early Childhood Development. Charity thrived at college and was able to develop her leadership skills even further, stepping up as a representative for 2,000 students. She won prizes both for her academic performance and was recognized as an outstanding female leader.

Continuing in her work with CAMA, Charity was elected by her peers as leader of their local chapter, comprised of more than 1,000 young women. In this role, Charity steers their community work to ensure they are reaching the most vulnerable groups. Together they conduct sessions for students, parents and school staff, on children’s right to education and safeguarding from exploitation or abuse. They also donate school fees and materials to ensure that more girls can remain in school. Charity personally supports five girls and two boys in their education.

Charity with two students

Charity (center) with two of the students she has supported to go to school. (Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell)

Charity with other CAMA members

Charity (left) with members of her local CAMA chapter. Together they're transforming their community. (Photo: CAMFED/Eliza Powell)

“What we’ve been doing through philanthropy seems amazing to me. It gives me happiness and joy that I am able to plow back into the community.”

Charity encounters younger girls in her community who are facing the same challenges that she did. Many of them live in single-parent families or are orphans living with other relatives, often in grinding poverty. When comparing themselves to others with more stable family backgrounds, they feel unworthy and unable to complete their education against such odds. They are particularly vulnerable to offers of money and food from men, in many cases leading to early marriage and childbearing, as well as serious health issues including HIV/AIDS.

“We are not giving up, to reach the girls, we are always doing our best with what we’ve learned from CAMFED.”

Charity and other CAMA members step in as big sisters and mentors to encourage and support girls to stay in school. With approval from local traditional leaders they offer counselling to young people and their families, warning them about the devastating consequences of child marriage. If the situation has progressed further and needs a higher stage of intervention, Charity and her CAMA sisters involve the Victim Support Unit.

The young women leaders also conduct sessions on Sexual and Reproductive Health, informing their communities about the use of contraception and encouraging them to get tested for HIV. Charity runs an after-school club for girls and boys, creating a safe space for them to discuss serious issues including early marriage and sexual health.

“We are seeing ourselves to be leaders, who are going to change this world. Most of us will be leaders for this world.”

Today, as a teacher and role model in her community, Charity is happy to see the positive change that she and her CAMA sisters are driving. Not only are CAMA members returning vulnerable children to school and fighting child marriage, but through their businesses they are bringing increased prosperity and opportunity to the area. There are now shops and restaurants owned by CAMA members which employ others and source their produce from agribusinesses run by their peers.

In future, Charity hopes to open her own pre-school to ensure vulnerable children in her community have access to education. She sees herself continuing as a respected businesswoman and leader, and perhaps one day becoming a politician. She hopes her son will follow in her footsteps as a change-maker and an advocate of quality education for both boys and girls.

The positive impact of Charity and her CAMA sisters is creating waves not only in their rural community, but across Africa and the world. In November 2018, Charity was invited to attend an event hosted by The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust in Lusaka, where she led CAMA singing for an audience of young leaders, including the organization’s President, The Duke of Sussex. Charity is proud to use her voice to raise the profile of CAMA and of the urgent issues they are tackling.

Charity leads her fellow CAMA members in song, practicing for a special event organized by The Queen's Commonwealth Trust in Lusaka, Zambia.